Investigation into Grand Island headstone business reveals victims lost over $200,000
Victims said they paid for headstones that they never received from Monument Advisors
GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - After a nearly two month investigation into Monument Advisors, Grand Island Police Captain Jim Duering says they were able to determine in several cases that criminal deception was taking place.
The Grand Island Police Department referred multiple felony charges against the company’s owner, 45-year-old Kelli Lepler.
Since early April, victims have been reporting to police that they put down a down payment or paid in full for headstones that they never received. The reports continued to come in and after a search warrant on the business, police had more than a million documents to go through.
“It was really unfortunate that we couldn’t use that to satisfy all 59 victims that really was our goal of the case, but within the confines of the law I think we did the best that we could in coming up with good evidence that we are presenting to the county attorney’s office,” Duering said.
One police investigator has been leading the case but has received help from others in the agency.
“We had numerous officers that took reports, victim assistance that helped that keep in contact with all of the 59 reporting parties, other officers that assisted in places with search warrants and going through property even though a lot of the work was done and done well by one of our investigators,” Capt. Duering said. “It really was a team effort by a lot of members of our agency.”
After going through the evidence and the numerous reports, Grand Island Police believes Lepler’s action constitutes 33 felony counts of Theft by Deception, and 4 additional Misdemeanor counts of Theft by Deception totaling over $200,000 in loss by the victims.
The next step in the case is for the County Attorney’s Office to review the case and decide whether charges will be made. However, due to the contents of the investigation it may take some time.
One major part in the investigation is what level of criminal activity was committed by the owner.
Capt. Duering said poor business practices aren’t against the law but figuring out what promises were made by the business takes time.
“In this case it took a lot of work to determine if what the clients were being told at the time of purchase was truthful in a business practice,” he said. “Where the money was going afterwards and whether it was going toward completion of the business promises and that really does take a lot of time and investigation.”
As the investigation continues, more reports have been made. For GIPD this was expected.
“We do think that more people will come forward,” Duering said. “The good thing is a lot of the background information we need is here but it will take a review of financial documents, contracts and review of some of the interviews that we have done in the course of the investigation to determine on a case by case basis whether they would fit into this case or not.”
However not every report will fit in the criminal cases, but there are other ways to report the case.
“There are other recourses that they could take between civil court and other actions that we hope can help them out, we just weren’t able to fit all of them in Nebraska Statute,” Duering said.
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