Man accused in cemetery ripoffs gets 18 months in plea deal
Manager arrested after I-TEAM investigation into Atlantic Beach businesses
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The former manager of an Atlantic Beach cemetery, accused of ripping off dozens of families who called the I-TEAM for help last year, will spend the next 18 months in prison after agreeing Tuesday to a plea deal.
Nadar "John" Rayan worked out the agreement with prosecutors days before his trial was scheduled to begin.
He pleaded guilty to organized fraud, failure to appear on bond and false verification of ownership to a secondary metals recycler -- for selling metal vases from grave markers.
He was sentenced to 18 months in state prison with three years of probation and was given credit for 54 days of time served.
Rayan was initially arrested in July 2016 after a series of I-TEAM investigations revealed more than 70 complaints against him and his wife, who used to own Beaches Memorial Park and First Coast Funeral home in Atlantic Beach.
Rayan was also ordered to pay restitution to all of the victims from whom he accepted money without providing services.
He never offered an apology in court.
The judge presiding over Rayan's case did not like the plea deal agreement presented to him Monday by Rayan’s attorney, which included less prison time, and sent both sides back to discuss it several times.
He passed the hearing to Tuesday to give the state time to alert the victims in the case and gauge their feelings about a possible plea deal, which was reached and announced Tuesday.
Victim wanted longer sentence
Some of the families victimized by Rayan said they are not satisfied with his sentence and had hoped for more prison time.
“I think he should have gotten at least five years,” said Lynn Simon, who paid Rayan to cremate her father, Burton Acker.
Acker's body was found last July severely decomposed and infested with maggots in the funeral home's broken refrigerator.
“Leaving my dad in a broken down cooler and covering him with embalming powder to keep him from smelling, that to me says he needs more -- a lot more,” said Simon, who added that she can't get the image of her father's body out of her head. “A Vietnam veteran deserved more respect, a lot more than what was given him.”
Rayan was ordered to pay $2,560 in restitution to Simon -- the amount she paid him for the cremation that never happened.
Simon said she knows just what she would do and say if she saw Rayan again.
“First, I would slap him,” Simon said. “Then, (I would say), 'How could you? How could you do this to me and the other families?'”
Rayan must also pay back the family of Martha Brown $1,190, which he charged them for a vault for their mother’s burial in 2016, even though the vault had already been paid for when the family purchased a pre-paid package plan years earlier.
Her family said they are relieved justice is finally being served.
Rayan was supposed to go to trial April 17 on 15 counts of grand theft and one count of schemes to defraud, but he failed to appear in court a week earlier for a pre-trial hearing. His $1 million bond was revoked and another warrant was issued for his arrest.
The I-TEAM learned that Rayan went on vacation to celebrate spring break with his family, instead of appearing in court.
The I-TEAM was there when Rayan was arrested Oct. 6 after being found after months on the run, hiding in the attic of a home that he shared with his wife and children.
Rayan's wife, 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. The State Attorney's Office declined to comment on the status of her case.
Beaches Memorial Park and First Coast Funeral Home are now under new ownership.
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