R.I.P. off? Windom business owner accused of swindling customers out of gravestones
(Windom, MN) – A Windom business owner is accused of swindling customers out of gravestones they ordered from her company.
Jodell Ann Crowell, 69, the owner of Windom Monument Company (WMC), was charged Wednesday in Cottonwood County Court. Crowell faces six felony counts of theft by swindle. She also faces one gross misdemeanor charge of the same.
According to the criminal complaint, in May 2019, Windom police investigators began receiving reports from customers that had purchased headstones from WMC but never received the markers.
Investigators followed up on 22 different reports of purchases made between January 2015 and April 2019. According to the criminal complaint, one woman had paid WMC nearly $5,000 for a headstone for her six-month-old nephew, but never received it.
Another woman told police she’d purchased a vault from Crowell in May 2018 for $500. Subsequent investigation revealed that vault companies only sell to licensed funeral homes, which WMC was not. Additional reports listed on the complaint indicated the victims had paid for the headstones, but the monuments were never placed at the cemetery as promised.
The complaint shows that over $49,000 had been paid to WMC by the 22 victims.
In May 2019, Crowell told investigators that the headstones hadn’t been placed at the cemetery because of the wet spring and that she hadn’t used anyone’s money for personal gain. She refused to provide police with the names of the granite companies she used, but said all of the money she’d received went towards the purchase of the stones.
Police search Crowell’s home and business on May 30th. According to the complaint, investigators found a statement that indicated Crowell owed over $77,000 to a granite company. WMC statements showed that thousands of dollars had been transferred to numerous bank accounts. Over $13,000 in checks had been written out to Crowell for cash, according to the complaint.
Court documents say there were various documents such as foreclosure and IRS notices that indicated Crowell was in serious financial trouble.
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