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Staff file photo by Erin O. Smith / Wichman Monuments sits along Brainerd Road. Trent Daniel Wichman, who was president of the company, is facing theft of property charges.

A trial date was set Wednesday for Trent Daniel Wichman, the 33-year-old former operator of Wichman Monuments in Chattanooga who is accused of theft.

Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman set an April 21 trial date for Wichman, whose company had allegedly stopped filling hundreds of orders on headstones and markers on which people had paid.

At the same time, the Hamilton County District Attorney's Office said Wednesday that an offer to settle the case has been extended to Wichman.

"An offer or settlement has been extended by the D.A.'s office," said Bruce Garner, communications director for the District Attorney's office, in a statement. No specifics about the proposed settlement were given.

"Meantime, the case was set for trial," said Garner in the statement.

Wichman, who was president of the longtime Brainerd Road company that has now closed, was charged with about a half dozen counts of theft of property in July 2018. He entered a "not guilty" plea and is free on bond and he attended Wednesday's hearing.

Steelman also set a Feb. 24 deadline by which Assistant District Attorney Andrew Coyle and defense attorney Ben McGowan can file motions in the case. In addition, the judge set that date for a pre-trial conference.

Wichman headed the company started by his grandfather, Fred Wichman.

In February of last year, the local Better Business Bureau began to receive complaints about the company not filling orders. In March, the Chattanooga Police Department said it had opened a fraud investigation after receiving complaints.

Also that month, Wichman said in a statement that the business had shut down permanently. The statement said the closure was precipitated by rising costs and the loss of some key employees to illness.

Randy Wilson of Randy Wilson Painting said he bought the Wichman Monuments' three-quarter-acre tract at 5225 Brainerd Road from Wichman's grandparents. He said he had agreed to accept responsibility for the customer accounts, which numbered about 260. Nearly all of those have been settled, Wilson said earlier.

He said the cost of the property and paying the claims will probably be a little more than $400,000. Wilson has put the property up for sale.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

 

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