FBI Investigating Sun Badger Solar

February 20, 2024
Sun Badger Solar was located at 2100 Pewaukee Rd, Unit D, in Waukesha.

Waukesha-based Sun Badger Solar, which closed in early 2023 and has faced multi-state investigations, is now under investigation by the FBI, according to a warrant filed by a Milwaukee-based special agent. The warrant is seeking internal company chat messages from San Francisco’s Slack Technologies software company. According to the warrant and affidavit, the messages may show false representations that were made to Sun Badger customers and employees. 

The solar panel installation company had an aggressive sales team calling on homeowners and commercial property owners throughout the Waukesha County area for several years, and its panels were popping up throughout the area. Their sales eventually extended across Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and Florida. But things started going south for the firm in 2022, as they began experiencing financial difficulty and made a series of poor decisions to keep the company afloat.

house with solar panels
Solar panel customers, employees and vendors lost an estimated $1.3 million.

Trevor Sumner, a Waukesha resident, and his partner Kristopher Snipe of Florida, co-founded Sun Badger Solar in 2018. Things got sticky for the pair in 2022, and customer complaints escalated to more than 100 at the Better Business Bureau, gaining the attention of authorities in Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota. 

According to a response from Sumner to the BBB, the financial difficulties stemmed from a change in their primary solar lenders’ payment structure, which negatively impacted 90 percent of their sales. By mid-2022, the company was failing to install a substantial number of products and services to customers who had made down payments.

While attempting to arrange financing to keep the business afloat, the company is accused of continuing to press their sales team to add new customers, with a substantial discount for those who paid up to a 50 percent deposit in cash, which would help their financial situation. Many of those customers never received their solar panels. And many employees were not paid as the company spiraled into failure. 

The company is in receivership, and the proceedings in Waukesha County under Judge Brad Schimel have liquidated Sun Badger property and generated roughly $200,000. These funds were sent to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development to provide back pay to the employees. 

Some of those employees have stated publicly on social media sites that the company was actively defrauding customers by selling services it had no means to provide during the final year of the company’s operation. The company’s former chief revenue officer is among those who are cooperating with investigations into the company’s practices, according to the FBI warrant and affidavits. 

The 140+ creditors that Sun Badger still owes money to will likely never see the estimated $1.3 million owed to them, according to the affidavit.

The City of Chicago sued the company and its owners for fraud due to the many defaults and stated that in addition to defrauding customers, Sun Badger fraudulently stated that the reason for delays in solar panel installation was due to the Chicago permitting process. If successful, the lawsuit could potentially penalize Sumner and Snipe with substantial fines and possible prison time, according to the lawsuit.

Minnesota also has active investigations into the company, according to the Better Business Bureau.