A dying man tried to be a good Samaritan to a troubled friend. But police say that "friend" went on a drink and cocaine binge and traded off tens of thousands of dollars worth of the victim's property for next to nothing on the dollar.
Ronald Kramer, 48, who gave his home address as Greenfield, was charged Saturday in Milwaukee County Circuit Court with one count of theft of more than $10,000. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison and $25,000 in fines.
According to police reports and the criminal complaint:
On Oct. 22, the victim, a physician who lives in the 6400 block of Upper Parkway North, was away on an extended stay in Houston when he was notified by his insurance agent that someone might be driving his car without his permission.
The insurance agent had received an anonymous call from a woman who said her daughter had been approached by two men in a white Cadillac who tried to “pick her up” and sell her some jewelry. Her daughter had noticed an insurance card in the car, thought it was probably stolen, and told her mother the name of the agency.
The homeowner said he was concerned about a man who had been staying at his home as a handyman since April. The man – Kramer – was someone he had known for about four years and was a recovering alcoholic. He had been hiring Kramer for a long time to do handywork around the house and had eventually let him live in his basement.
Officers went to the home and found Kramer in the kitchen, along with a lot of empty malt liquor cans. He could not account for the missing Cadillac, first saying that he had lent it to his mother and then, when police asked for her number, saying it had been stolen from him somewhere in Milwaukee, but he couldn’t say where or when.
Officers noted that Kramer's fingertips were burnt and worn down, consistent with crack smoking.
Police found a jewelry box in his pocket, containing a gold ring and four pearls. They then inventoried what remained of the wife’s jewelry collection. It was determined that jewelry worth many thousands of dollars was missing from the home.
The 2009 Cadillac was traced as “on the move” through OnStar and was recovered in a high-risk traffic stop in the 3300 block of West Juneau Avenue. The three people in the car denied knowing the car was stolen, but police are continuing to investigate them.
Kramer told police that he really did value his friendship with the victim. He began to drink, he told officers, to take the edge off, then decided to go out looking for some crack cocaine.
Kramer told police that once he started doing crack he couldn't stop, and he took the jewelry and the car over a several days-long bender, trading property worth tens of thousands of dollars for a few dollars worth of coke.
Kramer did keep a log of phone numbers for the people to whom he had traded away his helpers' belongings and said he would try to help get them back.
He’s currently being held in Milwaukee County Jail on $5,000 bond while awaiting trial.