IONIA (WWJ/AP) - A former Michigan funeral home employee who authorities say embezzled nearly $500,000 from 2008 through 2010 has reached a plea deal.
Marti Schrauben, of Portland, appeared Tuesday in Ionia County Circuit Court and pleaded guilty to one count of uttering and publishing, a 14-year felony. The 39-year-old also pleaded no contest to forgery (14-year felony), uttering and publishing (14-year felony), insurance fraud (five-year felony), and embezzlement over $50,000 but less than $100,000 (15-year felony).
Schrauben originally was charged with 27 counts related to racketeering and embezzlement, stemming from his time working at Schrauben-Lehman Funeral Home in Ionia.
The judge delayed sentencing for six months to allow time for Schrauben to make another partial restitution payment of $200,000. If Schrauben makes that payment as required, the remaining 22 counts against him will be dismissed. If he fails to make the payment however, the plea agreement will be withdrawn and he will go to trial on the original charges.
Authorities say from 2008 through 2010, Schrauben created false death certificates and sent them to insurance companies to receive payment from policies. Schrauben apparently accepted money for pre-paid funerals from customers of the funeral home and failed to place the money into escrow accounts, as required by state law. Instead, Schrauben allegedly embezzled the money for his own personal use.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, Schrauben agreed to pay full restitution of $496,381.70, including more than $184,000 for funerals provided by Schrauben-Lehman Funeral Homes without compensation.
Funeral home owner Michael Lehman has told the Sentinel-Standard of Ionia he’s honoring agreements customers made.
“You can’t ask the family for more money,” he said. “Trust is very important to me – it’s an important word. You’ve got to have trust from the people you serve.”
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