Conewago Twp. cemetery owner pleads guilty to fraud
Alleged victims of theft from Suburban Memorial Gardens in Conewago Township testify to lawmakers their experience with the cemetery. Christopher Dornblaser, 717-505-5436/@YDDornblaser
One of the owners of a Conewago Township cemetery pleaded guilty recently to defrauding more than 200 customers over a six-year period.
During a hearing at the federal courthouse in Harrisburg on Friday, May 17, Arminda Martin, 48, entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to commit mail fraud for bilking customers out of an estimated $493,000.
She and her husband, Theodore "Ted" Martin, 55, who are listed as owners of Suburban Memorial Gardens at 3875 Bull Road, were indicted in April 2018.
On Friday, Arminda Martin stood in handcuffs and shackles, dressed in a brown prison uniform, while Assistant U.S. Attorney Carl Marchioli read the facts in the case, which included that she accepted payment from an estimated 223 customers for burial services, plots, vaults, caskets and grave markers but never fulfilled the purchases.
This happened between 2010 and 2016, Marchioli said.
"The Martins misappropriated the funds for their own personal use," Marchioli said, adding that they used some of the money at numerous casinos.
After Marchioli read the facts, Arminda Martin admitted to the crimes.
U.S. District Judge John E. Jones ordered a pre-sentence report be done. That will be reviewed during a September conference, and she will be sentenced in the months following, he said.
As part of the plea agreement, Arminda Martin agreed to pay $493,000 in restitution.
Theodore Martin is expected to plead guilty during a change of plea hearing scheduled for May 30. He signed a guilty plea last month.
Kent Watkins, Arminda Martin's Schuykill County-based court-appointed attorney, declined comment following the hearing.
Background: The couple were indicted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in April 2018. Initially they were charged locally by Northern York County Regional Police, but those charges were withdrawn once the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General took over the case.
At the time, Northern Regional Police said the VA became involved because some of the alleged victims were veterans.
It was nearly two years before federal charges were filed.
At the time of their Pennsylvania indictment, Arminda Martin was serving 4½ years in prison and Theodore Martin was serving five years in prison.
Both of their prison sentences were for thefts related to two cemeteries they owned in Ohio, according to officials.
Family members of those buried at the Conewago Township cemetery, along with other volunteers, have been helping with the upkeep of it while the Martins are in prison.
— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.