$2M fine for former cemetery owner from Seven Valleys

A York County man who used to own an Adams County cemetery now must pay more than $2 million after he pleaded guilty to defrauding thousands of customers, according to the Adams County District Attorney's Office.

On Monday, Oct. 18, James Delaney Jr., 70, of Seven Valleys, was ordered to pay $2.2 million in restitution for defrauding the customers of Oak Lawn Memorial Gardens, a Gettysburg cemetery he used to own.

More:Former cemetery owner from Seven Valleys charged with theft

The restitution is believed to be a record amount for the county, the DA's office said in a news release.

Additionally, Delaney was sentenced to two to seven years in prison, online court records state.

James Delaney Jr.

The DA's office stated that Delaney had been defrauding his customers for more than 30 years.

Background: In July 2016, after months of investigation and more than 1,000 interviews, Cumberland Township Police charged Delaney with theft by deception and violation of cemetery and funeral merchandise trust-fund law, according to charging documents. Delaney is the former owner of Oak Lawn Memorial Gardens, 1380 Chambersburg Road, Gettysburg, and the investigation began in February 2016, according to police.

Cumberland Township Police Lt. Tim Guise said at the time that the investigation started when people found out the cemetery had been sold in a sheriff's sale in July 2015 and the ownership was transferred in January 2016.

Delaney had owned the cemetery since 1979, police said.

Guise said last year that in February 2016, the department was getting many calls from customers wondering what the change in ownership would mean for the items they had purchased.

Charging documents state Delaney received about $1.48 million from merchandise, and at that point more than 600 people had come forward saying they had made purchases over the past 25 years.

Defrauding customers: One woman said she ordered a memorial marker from Delaney and also approved a design for it, but police say they found Delaney had not placed the order for the marker.

Another woman told police that a pre-paid casket was not provided by the cemetery when her husband died, causing her to spend an additional $800 at a funeral home, according to documents.

A man told authorities the marker for his son's gravesite was not placed initially, prompting him to buy another, police said. The marker was ordered in October 2015 and shipped in November 2015, documents state.

"The marker remained lying on a sidewalk in front of the business until May of 2016, at which time possession was taken by the family," Guise wrote in the documents.

In addition to those accusations, police said Delaney did not properly deposit the money received for the merchandise.

"Accordingly 70 percent of the moneys paid to Oak Lawn for that merchandise should be housed in a trust or escrow-type account maintained by the Philadelphia Trust Co. and specifically earmarked to the individual person," Guise wrote in the documents.

Police said in July 2016 that about $1.036 million should be in the accounts. Police say no deposits have been made to those accounts since 2010.

Delaney pleaded guilty Oct. 6, and he was sentenced  Monday, Oct. 16.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at cdornblaser@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.