By Ed Runyan
The victims of the thefts committed by former Niles funeral director Robert P. McDermott Sr. will have the chance to speak to the judge about them at McDermott’s sentencing hearing June 11.
McDermott, 52, of Lincoln Avenue in Niles, pleaded guilty Thursday to 10 charges for stealing more than $250,000 from about 50 customers who prepaid for funeral arrangements through his former business, Robert P. McDermott Funeral Home on Warren Avenue in Niles.
Trumbull County prosecutors will recommend a prison sentence of three years, but Judge Ronald Rice of common pleas court isn’t bound by the recommendation.
McDermott’s convictions include theft from an elderly person, theft, tampering with records, forgery and violations of pre-need funeral contracts.
He was indicted on 19 charges that could have landed him in prison for more than 50 years.
Prosecutors say McDermott was charged for failing to put money for pre-need funeral arrangements into a trust account or insurance policy as intended.
Prosecutors say they don’t know what McDermott did with the money, but they will ask Judge Rice to order McDermott to pay restitution.
Chuck Morrow, an assistant Trumbull County prosecutor, said a few insurance companies have agreed to honor the pre-need contracts of McDermott customers even though McDermott never forwarded them the money.
Victims whose losses were not covered may receive compensation through restitution or may be able to recover the money through a civil suit, Morrow said.
Aside from the financial loss some customers experienced, there was another sort of victimization that didn’t result in criminal charges.
In four cases, the funeral home incorrectly marked cremated remains or gave them to the wrong family, said Capt. Ken Criswell of the Niles Police Department.
Such was the case of Betty Scherer of Niles, who received the cremated remains of a woman instead of the cremated remains of her late husband, Richard L. Scherer.
His cremated remains were found in a mismarked urn in the funeral home when investigators conducted a search there in August.
The Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors permanently revoked the licenses of McDermott and his funeral home in July.
Similar charges are pending against brothers Robert J. McClurkin, 49, of South State Street, Girard; and Patrick J. McClurkin, 47, of Abbey Street, Girard. They operated McClurkin Funeral Home in Girard.