Man says cemetery never provided headstones for parents' burial sites

I-TEAM has investigated First Coast Funeral Home, Beaches Memorial Park

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

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. - A man was upset to learn that his parents, who were laid to rest at a local cemetery, still do not have the headstones that they paid for to mark their burial sites.

John Bennett postponed his work abroad to return home after learning that the man he trusted to put his mother and father to rest was arrested Thursday.

"I want to find out if my mom's buried in that casket. I want to make sure my mom is in that casket," Bennett said.

Nader "John" Rayan, 35, the manager of First Coast Funeral Home and its sister company, Beaches Memorial Park, was arrested Thursday on 16 charges, most resulting from taking money for services that were never provided.

I-TEAM: Manager of troubled cemetery faces 15 felonies

The News4Jax I-TEAM was there as part of its continuing investigation of the cemetery and witnessed Nader "John" Rayan being taken into custody by police. According to the state attorney's office, he is charged with 11 counts of grand theft, one count of improper storage of a body, one count of fraud, one count of dealing with stolen property, one petty theft and one count of false verification of ownership to a recycler.

"I didn't do anything. It's not my business," Rayan told News4Jax as he was led away. "I don't have ... the ... knowledge or background that's required to run a cemetery."

Bennett's mother and father, who were married for 65 years, were both buried at Beaches Memorial Park.

Years ago, Bennett said, his mom and dad paid $16,000 for full burial services, which included headstones. His father died in March 2013 and his mother died in April -- still there are no markers on their grave sites. 

John Bennett

"They didn't do the flyer right. The flyers were just abnormal. And I picked out everything and we paid for her headstones," Bennett said. "These two people right here were special to me. And I love my mom and daddy. And I think my dad would appreciate and my mom would appreciate me to make sure everything was secure for them."

According to the arrest affidavit for Rayan, the grand theft charges result from several of the 70 cases the I-TEAM has reported over the last 10 weeks, including thousands of dollars paid for grave markers that were never placed and thousands more paid for burial vaults when less expensive vaults were used.

The thefts detailed in the report totaled more than $13,000. Bennett said he believes that number will rise because he plans to contact the state attorney's office about what happened to his parents.

"My mom didn't, they don't deserve to be hurt," Bennett said. "I want to make sure that they were taken care of because they were a good mom and dad."

Late Thursday afternoon, Rayan was booked into the Duval County jail on a $100,000 bond.

Rayan's wife, Amanda, is the listed owner of the businesses. There was no word Thursday about whether she would also face charges.

Because of the ongoing I-TEAM reports, the Florida Division of Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services assigned a team of investigators to look into Beaches Memorial Park and First Coast Funeral Home. Last week, after those investigators found decomposing remains in the non-working refrigerator, they ordered the cemetery and funeral home to stop doing business.

If anyone has a complaint about Beaches Memorial Park or its sister company, First Coast Funeral Home, they can contact the I-TEAM at iteam@news4jax.com or 904-479-NEWS.

Anyone who would like to file a complaint or has questions can visit the state’s Division of Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services website or call the division at 850-413-3039, or Toll Free in Florida at 800-323-2627.

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