Former owner of Atlantic Beach cemetery, funeral home won't be prosecuted

I-TEAM investigation dug into accusations of fraud against ex-owner, husband

By Jennifer Waugh - The Morning Show anchor, I-Team reporter

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. - The former owner of an Atlantic Beach funeral home and cemetery accused of fraud and forgery will not be prosecuted after the State Attorney's Office decided to not to file 47 felony charges against her.

Amanda Rayan was arrested in 2016, months after her husband, Nader “John” Rayan, was charged with fraud, grand theft, dealing in stolen property and other counts related to services not provided to customers who had paid in advance.  

Amanda Rayan was accused of organized fraud and forging signatures to get death certificates so her cemetery and funeral businesses -- First Coast Funeral Home and Beaches Memorial Park -- could keep getting paid to perform burials and cremations.

The State Attorney's Office said it declined to prosecute Amanda Rayan on the 47 charges because of a "lack of probability of conviction."

The I-TEAM had heard for months that the accusations against Rayan would be difficult to prove because the signatures were forged online.

In Duval County, the process that allows funeral directors to obtain death certificates requires an electronic signature.

Amanda Rayan was not a licensed funeral director and at the time the forgeries occurred her businesses did not have a licensed funeral director on staff. His or her signature would have been required for cremations and burials to be held at Rayan’s businesses.

In order to prove forgery, prosecutors would have had to submit evidence that Amanda Rayan was the person sitting at the computer committing the illegal act. More than one person had access to that computer. 

While Amanda Rayan is no longer accused of any criminal wrongdoing, Florida’s Division of Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services permanently stripped her of her licenses to own or operate a funeral home or cemetery in 2016.

She sold the businesses after several I-TEAM stories revealed more than 70 complaints from grieving loved ones who accused the Rayans of disgracing the dead.

Those complaints included accounts of mistreatment, overcharging and simply not providing services that had been paid for, including grave markers.

Nader Rayan worked out a plea deal with prosecutors after he failed to appear for his trial last year. He was found five months later hiding in the attic of the home he shared with his wife and their children. 

He is currently serving 18 months in prison after pleading 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 must also serve three years of probation.

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