Updated at 5:04 p.m. on Friday, July 20, 2018 with more information.
An attorney for the president of a longtime Chattanooga grave marker company indicted on theft charges last week entered a "not guilty" plea Friday on behalf of his client in Hamilton County Criminal Court.
Attorney Ben McGowan entered the plea for Trent Daniel Wichman, who headed Wichman Monuments on Brainerd Road. Wichman, who has been free on bond, did not show up in court as he waived his appearance at his arraignment on seven theft of property charges.
Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman set a new hearing in Wichman's case for Sept. 27.
McGowan had no comment after the hearing, except to say his client would appear at future court dates.
Wichman was charged with theft of property after the 72-year-old business suddenly closed earlier this year and left scores of people without their orders.
In May, an attorney for a company trying to settle claims related to Wichman Monuments said there were 260 cases involving customers of the business being examined.
Terrance L. Jones of the Presley Law Firm in Chattanooga estimated last week that there were fewer than 20 refunds to process and fewer than 40 monuments to have installed.
The indictment said there were five instances in which Wichman between Jan. 1, 2017, and March 1, 2018, unlawfully and knowingly obtained or exercised control of property valued at $2,500 or more but less than $10,000.
In two other counts, Wichman allegedly took the same action involving more than $1,000 but less than $2,500, according to the indictment.
The victims were identified as Brian Thompson of Chattanooga; Dean Caleb of Hixson, Tennessee; Geneva Perkins of Ellijay, Georgia; James Little of Hixson, Tennessee; Richard Watson, address unknown; Sandra Priest of Chattanooga; and Shirley Mykytyn of Temple, Georgia.
In February, the local Better Business Bureau began to receive complaints about Wichman Monuments. In March, the Chattanooga Police Department said it had opened a fraud investigation after receiving complaints.
Also that month, Wichman said the business had shut down permanently. A statement said the closure was precipitated by rising costs and the loss of some key employees to illness.
Contact Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.