Federal prison ordered for owners of Dover-area cemetery

Liz Evans Scolforo

The husband-and-wife owners of a Dover-area cemetery must spend a year each in federal prison and pay more than $300,000 in restitution for tax evasion, according to court records.

Theodore "Ted" Martin, 54, and Arminda Martin, 45, both of Ravenna, Ohio, pleaded guilty Jan. 27 in federal court to the felony of attempting to evade federal taxes, records state.

Suburban Memorial Gardens

They own Suburban Memorial Gardens at 3875 Bull Road in Conewago Township as well as two cemeteries in Ohio — Grandview Memorial Park and Fairvew Memorial Park, according to federal authorities.

They were each  sentenced Tuesday to a year and a day in prison and ordered to pay $304,837 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service, court records state.

They failed to report about $786,500 they received from operating their cemeteries between 2008 and 2011, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The Martins' sentencing hearing this week was unrelated to allegations they took cash from dozens of customers for grave markers that police say the Martins never bought.

Theft cases: Detective William Haller of Northern York County Regional Police investigated the couple and filed 32 separate sets of theft and related charges against each of the Martins in January and February, and the couple was arraigned on those charges in March, court records state.

But in May, police withdrew all the theft charges because the investigation was turned over to the federal Office of the Inspector General, police said at the time.

On Wednesday, Northern Regional Lt. David Lash said the federal investigation remains active, and charges have so far not been filed.

Some of the grave markers paid for by clients but never purchased by the Martins were for military veterans, according to Lash. Because the Office of Veterans Affairs pays for a portion of veterans' grave markers, the Office of Inspector General became involved, police have said.

Dover cemetery owners face federal investigation

Lash said the Martins' guilty pleas and sentencing for tax evasion are separate from the Inspector General's investigation into the alleged thefts of money earmarked for grave markers.

The Martins' attorney, Shane Kope, did not return a phone message seeking comment.

Theft allegations: In early February, four people told police they'd ordered grave markers at Suburban Memorial Gardens but that after weeks of questioning the owners, never had their markers placed, according to court documents. Customers alleged the Martins cashed the checks they were given but never placed the markers.

After those alleged victims came forward, police asked people to come forward if they believed they had been wronged by the cemetery.

By late February, many had come forward, alleging some of their orders were never placed. Some of these dated back to  2005, police said.

The amount of money people alleged the Martins had taken from them ranged significantly in the documents.

Some stated the Martins had taken as little as $143, while one victim told police the Martins stole nearly $8,000 from him, according to documents.

Gambling an issue: Kope filed sentencing memoranda for the Martins in their tax-evasion cases, claiming the Martins also were victims.

"The Martins ... found themselves in what they believed, albeit speciously, was a desperate position where the only way out was to limit tax liability by hiding income," he wrote.

Cemetery owners charged with theft

The memoranda state that when the Martins bought the cemeteries, they were taken advantage of by the previous owners, who allegedly led the couple to believe there were hundreds of thousands of dollars in reserved funds to cover all the cemeteries' existing liabilities, when if fact there was very little money and more than $2 million in liabilities.

The Martins believe they "simply made a series of bad decisions that were the result of bad business deals," Kope wrote, adding they are embarrassed and "truly remorseful."

However, federal prosecutors' response to the Martins' sentencing memoranda was that they presented their conduct in "a false light" and that the evidence "portrays a very different picture."

The couple's bank-account records for 2009 through 2011 show "cash withdrawals at numerous casinos ... totaling approximately $786,533. Hence, the true motive for defendants' evasion of taxes was gambling," the prosecution memorandum states.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.