ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

This story was updated at 5 p.m. on Friday, June 12, with more information.

A Chattanooga business owner who was criminally charged in 2018 for not filling already paid orders on headstones and markers pleaded guilty Thursday to six counts of theft of property.

According to the Hamilton County District Attorney General's office, Trent Wichman entered the guilty plea before Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman.

The district attorney's office said the victims in the case paid Wichman's company, Wichman Monuments, to build headstones for them. Wichman took the money, but never followed through on building the monuments, the office said in a statement.

Assistant District Attorney Andrew Coyle said Judge Steelman will determine the manner and method of Wichman's sentence at a hearing on Aug. 10.

The district attorney's office said Wichman pleaded to Class E felony charges. According to Tennessee law, Class E felonies can bring prison time of not less than one year nor more than six years. In addition, a fine may be assessed.

Ben McGowan, Wichman's attorney, did not return a call seeking comment.

Wichman Monuments, a 72-year-old business on Brainerd Road that closed in 2018, allegedly had stopped filling hundreds of orders on headstones and markers for which people had paid.

Wichman, who was 33 years old when he was indicted, headed the Brainerd company started by his grandfather, Fred Wichman.

Randy Wilson of Randy Wilson Painting bought the Wichman Monuments' three-quarter-acre tract from Wichman's grandparents. He said he had agreed to accept responsibility for the customer accounts, which numbered about 260.

He said then that the cost of the property and paying the claims would probably be more than $400,000.

In February 2018, 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. Later that month, the business announced it had shut down permanently. A statement said the closure was precipitated by rising costs and the loss of some key employees to illness.

In July, Wichman was indicted on theft charges.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT