WARREN - Three local funeral home owners are facing grand theft and other charges stemming from an investigation into the misappropriation of money paid to their businesses through prepaid funeral plans.
Robert P. McDermott, 51, of Niles, owner of McDermott Funeral Home in Niles, and Robert J. McClurkin, 49, and Patrick J. McClurkin, 47, each of Girard and owners of McClurkin Funeral Home in Girard, were arraigned Monday on a combined 49 counts of various felony charges including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.
Court officials said the three men each turned themselves in Monday morning. They all pleaded not guilty.
Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Peter Kontos set each man's bond at $100,000.
The three defendants were led from the courtroom in handcuffs and booked into the Trumbull County Jail. The judge reminded them they are each facing 20 years in prison if convicted.
They are due back in court for preliminary hearings later this month.
The three indictments unsealed Monday morning resulted from separate investigations into each funeral home. An investigation by the Niles Police Department showed there was $150,000 in missing prepaid funeral money from the Robert McDermott Funeral Home. Girard police investigated McClurkin Funeral Home and concluded $500,000 in prepaid funeral money is missing.
The three indictments include 20 counts against Robert J. McClurkin; 19 counts against McDermott; and 10 against Patrick J. McClurkin.
All three men are facing charges of one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity; one count of theft from an elderly person or disabled adult; one count of grand theft; and six counts of violations of preneeds funeral contract.
Additionally, the McClurkins are each charged with one count of theft. McDermott and Robert J. McClurkin are also charged with five counts of tampering with records and five counts of forgery.
The indictments spell out findings by the grand jury that each defendant "committed two or more incidents of corrupt activity that are related to the affairs of the same enterprise, are not isolated and are not so closely related to each other and connected in time and place that they constitute a single by engaging in, attempting to engage in, conspiring to engage in, or soliciting, coercing, or intimidating another person to engage in the corrupt activity ... ."
The Ohio Attorney General's Office and the Ohio Department of Insurance also participated in the investigations.
Both funeral homes were closed by the Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors. The board voted in September to suspend the licenses of the McClurkins and their license to operate their funeral home.
According to minutes of the board, the brothers were facing 178 administrative violations, with more than half of the charges accusing them of misappropriating $400,000 from 2005 to 2012. The records also show 90 separate instances where money was paid in advance for services, but not entrusted.
The separate and unrelated case against McDermott includes allegations that involve converting more than $150,000 he received, also for preneed services, for his personal use. The state attorney general's office also put a tax lien on McDermott.