In the wake of its recent, unannounced closing, Portage County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci said Thursday he's moving ahead with plans to dissolve the private ownership of the embattled Grandview Memorial Park cemetery in Ravenna Township by way of a lawsuit.
He said Grandview owner Theodore "Ted" Martin's bond was revoked Wednesday by a federal judge in Pennsylvania, where the 53-year-old was awaiting his turn to serve a one-year prison sentence for tax evasion. Prior to being taken away, however, Martin "gave instructions to his employees to close the cemetery," Vigluicci said.
The employees "walked out, locked the doors and put 'Closed' signs on windows and doors," he said.
Since then, two area funeral homes have contacted Vigluicci, representing the families of people who have died and wish for them to be buried in the plots they own.
"I authorized the funeral homes and families to enter the premises and to conduct any funeral proceedings, including opening and closing the graves," Vigluicci said, adding that the Portage County Sheriff's Office also has been directed to allow plot owners to do so.
If his plan to "involuntarily dissolve" the cemetery's private ownership succeeds, maintenance and care of the cemetery grounds at 5400 Lakewood Road and burials would be turned over to Ravenna Township trustees, he said. Vigluicci also said the cemetery's office manager -- who no longer is being paid by the Martins -- has agreed to work with authorities, the township and funeral homes to sort through the cemetery's books and assist in locating customers' plots.
By law, the township must take over stewardship of the cemetery grounds and honor deeds held by burial plot owners. The township will not be required to honor "pre-need" contracts held by customers for caskets, vaults or headstones, Vigluicci said.
Ted Martin's wife, 46-year-old Arminda "Myndi" Martin, already is serving her one-year prison sentence for the same crime. Her sentence and her husband's sentence were staggered so that one was free to continue running and caring for their three privately-owned cemeteries -- Grandview, Fairview Memorial Park in Delaware County, Ohio, and Suburban Memorial Gardens in York County, Pa.
Ted Martin also is accused by Delware County prosecutors of twice using cemetery funds to post bond for himself on dozens of felony and misdemeanor theft and related charges in that county's Common Pleas Court.
Martin violated his bond in the federal case by using cemetery proceeds for personal matters, Vigluicci said. The Martins still also faces felony and misdemeanor charges in Portage County Common Pleas Court, all related to the administrative operation of Grandview, he said.
Pre-need contract owners likely will not see any compensation for their financial losses unless the Martins can come up with the money to satisfy their creditors.
Vigluicci said that line is long, and includes the IRS along with the Ohio Department of Taxation and the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, both of which hold liens on the Grandview property. That's because the Martins failed for years to make their workers compensation and employment tax obligations to the state. The list of creditors also includes customers who previously sued the Martins in court and won judgments against them.
"The good news is the cemetery will be available for people who own plots there," Vigluicci said. "The bad new is that the people who purchased these 'pre-need' contracts Ted Martin was famous for are left in line with the federal government, state government and the other people the Martins owe money to. I've tried to be honest with people about that."
Vigluicci encouraged anyone who bought a pre-need contract from Grandview to "stop making payments" to the Martins, if they have not already, and to file a police report with the Portage County Sheriff's Office -- either by stopping in a the Portage County Justice Center at 8240 Infirmary Road in Shalersville or calling 330-296-5100.
"When mom is buried and dad passes away, they want to be able to bury dad next to mom and they should be able to do that," he said.
More than 100 Grandview customers already have sought attorney referrals from the Portage County Bar Association to have a consultation regarding their legal rights, Vigluicci said. Anyone still wishing to do so who does not already have an attorney is encouraged to call the bar association between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 330-296-6357.