Cemetery owner accused of ripping off customers speaks out from behind bars

DELAWARE, OH (WCMH) — The owner of a Central Ohio cemetery spoke out from jail after he was indicted on 44 counts of theft and corrupt activity. Fairview Memorial Park owner Ted Martin, Jr. was booked into the Delaware County Jail Monday night.

NBC4 has been telling the story of Ohio families who say Martin ripped them off. He is accused of not providing vaults, headstones and markers to families who prepaid for them.

“You want what you pay for. I paid for it and I thought they should put it in,” said Hazel Nelson, who says she was a victim.

Now, Martin is speaking out.

“It’s a mess. It’s just a mess,” he said in a jailhouse interview. “Your family members shouldn’t be victims. I shouldn’t be a victim, but we all kind of are. I got duped into these facilities, and I’ve got panic every minute of every day.”

Martin said he bought the cemetery in 2008. He claimed the previous owner, now dead, kept the money families paid for prepaid plots dating back to the 1960s. Decades later, when that loved one died, Martin said he had to foot the costs families had already paid.

“This is a problem that’s been going on for 55-60 years,” Martin explained. “Folks are dying , we’re supplying with no money. We are writing sales to cover everything. So the hole has already begun, the damage has already begun day one that we are in there.”

In order to make good on these previous services and items sold years ago, Martin said he had to sell to new customers, admittedly perpetuating the problem. That new cash was then used to pay immediately for services on sales already complete.

After recently working with attorneys and the FBI, Martin said he will no longer honor sales at Fairview Memorial Park made by the previous owner. This includes prepaid sales made before 2008, before he was owner.

“They devised this letter that you probably know about that’s been going out saying to those families that we can’t service what we didn’t sell,” Martin added.

Sitting in jail, he had an ominous forecast for the future of Fairview Memorial Park as his legal trouble lingers.

“By the end of the week, it’s probably going to be a disaster out there because if I can’t be out there to fix these problems,” Martin explained. “My crew is so frustrated; they are at wits’ end. They’ll probably walk right off the job by Friday.”

In addition to blaming the previous owner, Martin said the U.S. Department of Commerce is at fault for not correctly enforcing existing regulations by requiring a financial audit at the time of sale.

“How do you get on the hook for that?” Martin asked. “Why are you put on the hook for that if you were fraudulently sold the businesses and there was plenty of opportunity to confront the gentleman that did this and the agencies that were supposed to oversee this?”

Martin is expect to appear before a judge and be formally charged in the next few days. Delaware County Prosecutor Carol O’Brien said this is one of the more heinous cases she has seen during her time as prosecutor.

“The message, anytime you have a see like this is to make sure you know who you are dealing with. Make sure to check everything out,” O’Brien said.

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