Judge threatens to send scamming funeral director back to prison

Staff report


Judge Ronald Rice of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court gave a firm rebuke Thursday to a former Niles funeral director he sent to prison three years ago for stealing $270,000 from customers.

Robert P. McDermott Sr., 55, of Cardigan Street, Niles, asked the judge in August if he would lower his monthly restitution of $500.

His attorney, Michael Scala, said McDermott had not found a good job since being released from prison in the spring after serving close to three years. Scala said McDermott couldn’t afford to pay $500 per month.

“I don’t see any reason to modify it,” the judge said of the restitution order. “If he doesn’t pay it, he goes to prison. I don’t care if he has to scrub floors.”

McDermott’s court filing said he had found only umpiring work since coming home from prison, and that ended in September. The filing said McDermott’s gross income in July was $1,175.

McDermott pleaded guilty to 10 felony offenses in 2014 for stealing at least $270,000 from about 50 customers of his former Robert P. McDermott Funeral Home in Niles and was sentenced in June 2014. He was ordered to pay restitution of $172,802.

During sentencing, Judge Rice compared McDermott’s misdeeds to running a Ponzi scheme, whereby money from new customers was used to pay for the funeral services of earlier customers.

McDermott failed to put money for prepaid funeral arrangements into insurance policies, annuities or trusts as promised, prosecutors said. About $235,000 of the $270,000 in thefts involved the elderly, prosecutors said.

Insurance companies “honored” the policies of some of the victims, paying about $110,000 to reimburse customers even though McDermott never forwarded the money to the insurance companies.

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