Funeral director guilty

WARREN – A former Niles funeral home director pleaded guilty Thursday in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court to stealing more than $250,000 in prepaid funeral money from his customers.

Robert P. McDermott, 51, of Niles, pleaded guilty to 10 of the original 19 felony charges filed against him in exchange for dismissal of the others.

He is due back in court June 11, when Judge Ronald Rice will sentence him after a presentence investigation into his background is completed. McDermott faces three to 25 years in prison and a $75,000 fine.

Prosecutors are recommending a three-year sentence, and a requirement that he make full restitution. McDermott can request a shorter sentence or probation, assistant prosecutor Charles Morrow said.

McDermott’s victims can make impact statements, if they wish, at his sentencing, Morrow said.

McDermott was de-certified and the McDermott Funeral Home sold in foreclosure after investigators found the remains of 42 cremated customers in plastic bags, temporary containers and marble urns in August. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Ohio Department of Insurance also participated in the investigation.

Prosecutors said McDermott, former owner of funeral home, stole prepaid funeral money from customers. Morrow said the court advised McDermott that he should have a restitution plan in place by the date of his sentencing hearing.

The amount of restitution has yet to be determined. Some of the victims have had their policies honored by the insurance companies, Morrow said.

Charges McDermott pleaded guilty to include theft from an elderly or disabled person, grand theft, two counts of forgery, three counts tampering with evidence, and three counts of violation of pre-need funeral contracts / arrangements.

On May 15, prosecutors offered McDermott a week to decide if he would take the plea deal or go to trial.

McDermott was named in a 19-count indictment in December charging him with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity; one count of theft from an elderly person or disabled adult; one count of grand theft; six counts of violations of preneeds funeral contract; five counts of tapering with records; and five counts of forgery.

Morrow said if a jury had convicted McDermott on all counts, he could have faced a maximum prison sentence of more than 50 years.

He pleaded guilty to various charges in exchange for others being dismissed or reduced.

The case against McDermott includes allegations that involve converting money he received for preneed services for his personal use, according to an investigation by Niles police. The state attorney general’s office also put a tax lien on McDermott.