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Trial begins for contractor accused of defrauding Ontario cottage owners

The criminal trial of a contractor who allegedly took hundreds of thousands of dollars from multiple Ontario cottage owners for renovation projects, but left major jobs unfinished, is set to begin Thursday.

Scott Eisemann, 54, is facing 13 charges in total, including nine counts of fraud over $5,000, three counts of false pretence and one count of mischief to property.

He is set to appear at the Ontario Court of Justice in Orillia, Ont., for the first of what’s expected to be a multi-day judge-alone trial.

Emily Dyer, Eisemann’s defence lawyer, declined to comment ahead of the trial, including about how her client intends to plea.

The charges were laid after multiple Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) investigations stemming from complaints from cottage owners in Parry Sound, Georgian Bay, Orillia and elsewhere in the Muskoka region. The cottagers alleged they hired Eisemann and his company, Cottage Life Construction, for renovation or construction work, but that he failed to start or complete the work.

A woman stands in front of a cottage that's raised up precariously on wooden blocks two metres off the ground.
Liz Saunders says she paid Eisemann and Cottage Life Construction $64,000 to raise her cottage, build a new foundation and lower it back down. Instead, her cottage was left perched precariously on wooden blocks for months. (John Lancaster/CBC)

CBC Toronto has reported on a number of Eisemann’s projects, including one at a family’s cherished Muskoka getaway near Bracebridge, Ont. 

Liz Saunders said she paid Eisemann $64,000 to raise her cottage, build a new foundation and lower it back down,.

Instead of completing the job, Eisemann is accused of taking Saunders’s money, walking away from the job and leaving the modest cabin perched on wooden blocks, two metres off the ground.

Saunders, who is ready to testify in person, said she’s anxious about the start of the trial.

“It’s just [that] it’s been such a long process and you know, there’s a fear that he’ll walk,” she said.

“I started this process not because I had any intention of getting any of my money back, because I knew that was not [in] the cards, but to stop him from doing this.”

A man holds up a contract.
Rene Langevin holds the contract he signed with Cottage Life Construction. He paid them $14 000 to renovate a washroom. He says he got nothing in return. (John Lancaster/CBC)

In another case CBC Toronto reported on, Rene Langevin said his family paid $14,000 to Eisemann and his company to renovate the bathroom of their cottage near Parry Sound. The work was never completed.

“I think Scottie needs to be in jail,” Lagenvin said. “Hopefully justice is served.”

In total, CBC Toronto spoke with at least seven cottage owners who say they handed over tens of thousands of dollars to Eisemann and Cottage Life Construction. They accuse Eisemann, who has also used the names Scott Evan and Scott Daniels, of abandoning the projects he was paid to do.

Eisemann convicted of fraud in 2014

The OPP arrested Eisemann in November 2020, one day after CBC Toronto reported on Saunders’s story, although the fraud and possession of property obtained by crime charges he was charged with at that time were connected to two different property owners.

Eisemann was arrested again in May of 2021, and the OPP filed more fraud charges against him. His alleged victims were from a number of cottage country municipalities, the OPP said at the time.

The next month he was arrested and charged for a third time, this time for allegedly bilking Saunders, who originally blew the whistle on him.

Eisemann has been convicted before.

In 2014, he pleaded guilty to defrauding a 92-year-old, legally blind Toronto woman out of her life savings, totalling $132,000.

He was sentenced to two years in prison after the judge determined Eisemann had taken the money from the victim for “needless renovations” on her home.

Not long after serving his sentence, in September 2016, Eisemann opened Cottage Life Construction.

The company filed for bankruptcy in 2020, owing clients and contractors more than $300,000.  

The court has set aside five days for the trial. 

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