JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The I-TEAM has learned that Nader Rayan, who faces multiple grand theft charges in the mismanagement of an Atlantic Beach funeral home and cemetery, went on vacation with his wife and children for spring break instead of appearing in court for his trial.
Rayan, who goes by John, was arrested on grand theft charges after an I-TEAM investigation that was prompted by more than 70 complaints from families, who said they were either mistreated, overcharged or never provided services they had paid for.
Rayan managed Beaches Memorial Park and First Coast Funeral Home in Atlantic Beach, which were owned by his wife, Amanda. She is also facing multiple charges.
The businesses are now under new ownership.
John Rayan faces 16 charges, including 10 counts of grand theft and one count of schemes to defraud.
John Rayan's trial on those charges was supposed to start April 17, but he never showed up to court. Judge Russell Healey issued a bench warrant for John Rayan on April 10 when he failed to appear for his last pretrial hearing.
According to I-TEAM sources, John Rayan's entire family drove to Maryland to spend the week with family members instead of showing up for court. He has not yet been found and arrested on the bench warrant, but sources said it's possible he is still in Jacksonville.
“It makes me angry. At least own up to it," said Lynn Simon, who has waited for months to attend John Rayan's trial. The remains of her father, Burton Acker, were found severely decomposed inside a broken refrigerator at the Atlantic Beach cemetery last July.
Simon said she paid John Rayan to cremate her father, but that she got the runaround when she called inquiring about his remains. The military veteran's body was found infested with maggots during a surprise inspection by an investigator with the state's Division of Cemetery, Funeral and Consumer Services.
The department started investigating the cemetery after pressure from the I-TEAM to do more to help the families, who contacted News4Jax, complaining about how the Rayans were treating them.
"People were vulnerable at the time," explained Al Bourgeois, who said he paid John Rayan $2,995 in January 2016 for a crypt plate to be placed at his mother's final resting place.
For months, he said, Rayan told him it was on the way or being shipped, but it never arrived.
"He's on the run, so I hope the public would call in tips to police or Channel 4 that he's been spotted,” Bourgeois said. “Let's put this guy back in jail.”
Amanda Rayan was arrested last September and is currently awaiting trial on 45 charges involving accusations she forged death certificates, one count of schemes to defraud and one count of criminal use of personal identification.
She sold the Atlantic Beach businesses when the state permanently revoked her licenses to operate a cemetery and funeral home. The current owner has worked with all the families who said they were wronged by the Rayans to try to help them find peace for their loves ones.
The Rayan family lives in East Arlington and has ties to Mayport, where the cemetery is located.
Anyone who sees Nader “John” Rayan or knows where he might be hiding is urged to call Jacksonville police at 904-630-0500 or CrimeStoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS. Tipsters calling CrimeStoppers can remain anonymous and could be eligible for a $1,000 reward if their tip leads to Rayan's arrest.