A Bennington couple who allegedly bilked thousands of dollars from engaged couples and area organizations while operating South Creek Wedding and Events were arrested Friday on felony theft charges in Washington County.
Nicholas Yaksich, 53, and Kelly Jo Yaksich, 57, are each charged with theft by unlawful taking-more than $5,000, a Class 2A felony.
According to an arrest affidavit, Blair police began an investigation following a news report detailing the center's closure, those who had paid money to rent it and their efforts to get their money back.
Several brides-to-be told the Pilot-Tribune in January that the Yaksiches had indicated the business had new owners and the new owners were planning to continue their events.
Blair police allege the couple received a total of $19,975 in deposits from 18 separate people and/or entities to host events when they were in the process of being evicted from the building, which is located at 715 Grant St.
A detective found that the Yaksiches sent letters to those who had paid deposits stating that South Creek Wedding and Events had changed ownership. However, they did not provide a name or business name of any new ownership. In their investigation, Blair police determined there was no new owner and the building's owner said no one had inquired about purchasing South Creek.
The Yaksiches had also provided a telephone number that they said was for the new owners, but police found that the number had been registered to the Yaksiches and that they had disconnected it two days after sending the letters.
According to the report, the Yaksiches rented the building and were delinquent in rent as well as other charges. In April 2019, the owner of the building sent a letter to the couple giving them a three-day notice to quit. The notice stated the Yaksiches were delinquent in rent by $22,000. They needed to pay the amount or terminate their lease.
The couple continued to operate their business in the building for another nine months. During that time, police learned, the couple made six rent payments that were less than the required rent. They also made three payments to cover fees associated with the building.
The owner of the building was attempting to evict the business when the Yaksiches countersued in civil court. Their last rent payment was made on Sept. 30.
Despite the court process, the couple continued to take money from people to host events. The Yaksiches vacated the building on Jan. 13. The last known contract was signed and money was received on Dec. 5.
Several couples and organizations, including the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, United Congregational Church, Blair Community Schools, Washington County Pheasants Forever, Logan Public Schools and Blair Community Schools Foundation, are listed as victims in the report.