Plea on table in funeral scam

WARREN – A funeral home owner from Niles is considering a plea deal that could land him in prison for three years and leave him responsible for restitution to former customers in what authorities have called a prepaid funeral scam.

Robert P. McDermott, 51, of Niles, and his attorney, Michael Scala, have a week to consider the offer from assistant county prosecutor Charles Morrow or risk the outcome of a trial that is scheduled for June 2 in the courtroom of Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Ronald Rice.

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 told Rice in court Thursday that if a jury convicts McDermott on all counts, he could face a maximum prison sentence of more than 50 years.

A proposed deal would involve the one-time funeral director pleading guilty to a series of charges in exchange for other charges being dismissed or reduced. Morrow would then recommend three years behind bars, but the ultimate sentence would be up to Rice.

The case against McDermott includes allegations that involve converting more than $150,000 he received, also 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.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Ohio Department of Insurance also participated in the investigation.