Local funeral home operator in Michigan jail

May 10, 2010

The funeral home and cemetery owner who last month pleaded guilty to theft and securities fraud in Marion County will spend at least the next month in a Michigan jail while he awaits sentencing on similar charges there.

Robert Nelms, 41, was set to be sentenced in a Michigan court May 7. But a judge postponed the sentencing until the sale of his business, Memory Gardens Management Corp., is finalized, according to the Daily Journal newspaper in Franklin.

Nelms will remain in jail until at least June 1, the date the judge set for Nelms to report on the status of the sale, the newspaper said.

A sale of Indianapolis-based Memory Gardens, whose properties include Forest Lawn Memory Gardens & Funeral Home in Greenwood, is in the works. Johnson County Judge Mark Loyd approved its sale to Pennsylvania-based StoneMor Partners LLC. The acquisition could be finalized by the end of the month.

Memory Gardens fell into court-appointed receivership after Nelms pleaded guilty to theft and securities fraud in July.

Nelms’ plea agreement in Marion County allowed him to avoid prison and instead receive an eight-year sentence through community corrections programs and two years of probation.

In Michigan, Nelms pleaded guilty to embezzlement and failing to maintain funeral contracts, both felonies. He faces up to three years in prison.

He could serve as little as 20 months if he repays the more than $4 million he is accused of taking from trust funds for a Grand Rapids, Mich., cemetery, the Daily Journal said.

The receiver appointed by Loyd in Johnson County recovered $5 million of the nearly $20 million missing from trust funds in Indiana.

StoneMor Partners would contribute $14.8 million toward the trust funds if it purchases Memory Gardens, according to an April 30 settlement agreement with the Indiana Secretary of State’s office.


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