Wichman theft case delayed until October

Wichman theft case delayed until October

About 85 percent of claims resolved, lawyer says

September 27th, 2018 by Mike Pare in Breaking News

Wichman Monuments sits along Brainerd Road Friday, July 13, 2018 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Trent Daniel Wichman, president of Wichman Monuments, was indicted on Wednesday in Hamilton County on the theft of property charges.

Photo by Erin O. Smith

Updated at 5:02 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018, with more information.

“It was very stressful. It took me nine months, six days.”
Jerry Rich about how long it took to get a grave marker he had originally ordered from Wichman Monuments

An attorney for the president of a longtime Chattanooga grave marker company indicted on theft charges was granted Thursday a delay in the case for about a month.

Attorney Ben McGowan, representing Trent Daniel Wichman, said in Hamilton County Criminal Court that pending discovery in the case has been hindered by technical issues.

Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman set a new court date of Oct. 30.

Trent Daniel Wichman

Trent Daniel Wichman

Photo by right2know.timesfreepress.com

Wichman, who headed Wichman Monuments on Brainerd Road, was at the hearing but did not address the court. He also declined comment after the brief hearing.

In July, Wichman's attorney entered an innocent plea on behalf of his client in Criminal Court.

Wichman, who has been free on bond, was charged with seven counts of 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 said Thursday that about 85 percent of the claims have been resolved so far. He said he's hopeful the process will be complete by year's end.

"I know folks are tired of the wait," he said. "We're still working this problem much longer than anticipated. We haven't forgotten them."

Wanda Ray of Chattanooga said she paid $2,747 for two headstones to Wichman Monuments about nine months ago and is still waiting for her money, which has been pledged.

"It doesn't seem promising but you still have hope," Ray said. One of the headstones was for her sister and one for herself, she said.

Jerry Rich of Stevenson, Ala., said that earlier this summer he did receive from another monument company the headstone he had originally ordered last year from Wichman.

"I called everybody involved to thank them for their work," he said. "It was very stressful. It took me nine months, six days."

Rich said he had paid $4,300 up front last year for a monument for his wife of 50 years who died in 2017.

Jim Winsett, who heads the BBB of Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia, said there has been some level of resolution to the 72 complaints it received about Wichman Monuments earlier this year.

"As a whole, it looks like we're in pretty good shape with this file," he said.

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.

In February, the BBB 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 mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.


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