Funeral operator slapped with criminal charges

Keywords Criminal Charges / Fraud / Law

The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office filed criminal charges today relating
to the status of trust funds set aside to pay funeral expenses and cemetery maintenance for a string of Indiana cemeteries.

Robert
Nelms, a New Jersey resident who owns Indianapolis-based Memory Gardens Management Corp., has been charged with a series of
felonies, including fraud-related violations of Indiana’s securities law, theft and conspiracy to commit theft.

Nelms
is accused of defrauding the families of deceased Hoosiers of $27 million, according to the Indiana Secretary of State’s Securities
Prosecution Assistance Unit, which assisted in the investigation.

It charges that Nelms used fraudulent securities
instruments similar to corporate bonds to transfer the cash and assets of Memory Gardens’ perpetual care fund. The Secretary
of State’s Office said he hid the money through a variety of complex monetary transfers and used the funds to pay some of
Memory Gardens’ purchase price, as well as for various personal reasons.

Nelms bought Memory Gardens, which owns and
operates cemeteries and funeral homes, in 2004. He is accused of raiding:
-Forest Lawn Memory Gardens Inc. and Forest Lawn
Memorial Chapel, Greenwood
-Covington Memorial Gardens Inc. and Covington Memorial Funeral Home, Fort Wayne
-Chapel
Hill Associates Inc. and Chapel Hill Funeral Home Inc., Osceola
-Lincoln Memory Gardens Inc., Boone County
-Gardens
of Memory, Muncie
-Gill Funeral Home Inc., Washington

Indiana law requires the owner of a private cemetery to provide
for the creation and establishment of an irrevocable perpetual care fund. The fund is designed to permanently maintain cemeteries
to benefit the community and those who purchase lots there.

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