NEW ULM — A man is facing felony charges after he reportedly took money from at least 15 grieving people and didn’t make them a gravestone or failed to complete a memorial marker.
Jesse Lee Ellerbroek, 43, of Winthrop, was in the process of buying a New Ulm monument company when he decided to abandon the venture last year and not give refunds, charges say.
Ellerbroek was charged with 13 counts of felony theft Friday in Brown County District Court.
The former owner of Heritage Memorial and Stone Creations told authorities he was selling the business to Ellerbroek on a contract for deed and Ellerbroek had taken over operations in 2014.
In early 2020 Ellerbroek texted the former owner and said he was walking away from the business, according to a court complaint. The former owner went to the office a few days later and discovered everything had been cleaned out.
The New Ulm Police Department received a dozen complaints from people who ordered gravestones or other memorial markers but never received them. Two other people reported paying the company to have a date of death added to an existing gravestone but the service had not been completed.
A police investigator recovered two of the headstones and a statue ordered by complainants in a garage Ellerbroek had been using, the charges say. A third gravestone also was recovered that a 15th victim had not yet reported not receiving.
The three recovered gravestones were given to their owners, but they still experienced a financial loss of a having to pay someone else to install them.
The buyers of gravestones that were never found each lost between $400 and $6,500. The collective loss was nearly $20,000, the charges say.