NBC 5 Responds

Consumer fraud complaints continue to add up against local tombstone company accused of swindling grieving families

Gast Monuments also suffered a loss in civil court last week, in a case brought by a customer who never received his $190,000 monument. The number of consumer complaints with the Illinois attorney general's office has nearly doubled since August

NBC Universal, Inc.

Complaints continue to grow against a monument company accused of taking advantage of grieving families.

Close to a dozen families tell NBC 5 Responds Gast Monuments took money for their deceased loved ones grave markers or tombstones, but never delivered them.

Gast Monuments also suffered a loss in civil court last week, in a case brought by a customer who never received his $190,000 monument.


At the end of 2021, Stephanie Schnell lost both her parents to COVID-19, just weeks apart from each other.

Ralph Rounds and Vivian Rounds passed away just 4 weeks apart due to complications from covid. Almost two years later, their graves are still unmarked. Photo courtesy: Stephanie Schnell

“We lost my dad on December 19, 2021 from complications from COVID. At the same time, my mom was in the hospital on a ventilator. And then we lost her four weeks later, to the day,” Schnell said.

Around that time, Schnell found out she was pregnant with her third child. In May 2022, Schnell began the task of settling her parents affairs.

Schnell says she trusted Gast Monuments to create a monument for her parents' grave site in Cary, with receipts showing that she paid Gast $7,762.

“They had been in business for six generations, so I figured, 'Okay, these guys should be good,'” Schnell said.

Schnell told NBC Chicago it wasn’t long until company owner, Katie Gast, told her the granite she ordered was on backorder.

“The granite we picked, we picked specifically because it was in stock,” said Schnell.

Schnell says Gast also told her in May that she would connect with the cemetery about grave marker requirements to find out exactly where Schnell’s parents were buried.

“We told [Gast], we didn't know who was on which side because things had happened so close together,” Schnell said.

It wasn’t until August that Schnell found out the monument she ordered from Gast couldn’t be installed in the cemetery.

“[Gast] didn't even call the cemetery until August to find out who was where, and that's when we found out it was a bronze-only cemetery,” said Schnell.

Schnell adjusted the grave marker design to include bronze and paid Gast in full to complete the work in September 2022, though it wasn’t smooth sailing from there.

“Finally, in September, I got a proper rendering, because they had messed it up so many times. The epitaph was missing, the dates were wrong, stuff was just not right,” said Schnell. “They just kept stringing me along. So, you know, for a while I was e-mailing them every two or three weeks.”

But more than a year later, Schnell is still waiting for her parents grave makers to arrive. The fee to install the markers in the cemetery has also increased by several hundred dollars, a cost she says her family will have to absorb due to Gast’s delay in producing and delivering the marker.

Without those grave makers, she says it isn’t clear exactly where her parents have been laid to rest.

“It's absolutely heartbreaking. I want to be able to go there on their birthdays and know who's where and go there for Mother's Day or Father's Day or a holiday and be able to leave a wreath,” said Schnell.


NBC 5 Responds has found that dozens of families are making similar claims against Gast, with complaints against the company filed with the Illinois attorney general’s office going from 22 in August to 37 in October.

Last week, a civil court judge entered a default order against Gast for one of the largest customer orders NBC 5 Responds has seen to date.

The judge entered an order of default in favor of an Evanston man who paid Gast $190,000 for a monument in 2018 that was ultimately never delivered. According to court records, company owner, Katie Gast, never responded to the any of the court filings and neither she, nor her attorney, attended any of the court hearings.

Next month, the judge will determine just how much in damages Gast will have to pay.

In a statement, Gast told us: "There is no judgment in favor of anyone in that case. Gast has not yet appeared in this case to date, but will appear and move to vacate the Order of Default and dispute the allegations in that lawsuit."

“Once I heard about all this legal stuff going on, and I realized …this isn't gonna happen. They're not going to deliver,” Schnell said.


The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office also confirms to NBC 5 Responds  this week- it is still reviewing a potential case against Gast.

We reached out to Gast several times to ask about the status of Schnell, and several other family’s orders. She did not respond to our questions.

“If Katie Gast were sitting in front of me right now, I would just say ‘How dare you? How dare you take advantage of people after losing their loved ones. It's just, I don't know how you can go to sleep at night’,” said Schnell.

With no faith left in the company, Schnell says she wants her money back and her parents affairs to finally be laid to rest.

“It's been very stressful because you feel like you failed. The last thing you’re doing for them is putting their monument in place, and we can't even get that done. It's just the last thing that needs to be done so that we can all heal,” Schnell said.

Contact Us