Former funeral director Michelle Gavin was sentenced to four years in prison and ordered to pay more than $240,000 in restitution to the approximately 60 victims of her prepaid funeral services scam.
Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Dennis Adkins told Gavin, 46, co-owner of the now defunct Magetti-Gavin Funeral Home, 1508 Valley St., Dayton, that “these people trusted you. They put their trust that you would see that their loved ones were buried. You violated that trust.”
Gavin, a Brookville resident, sold pre-need funeral contracts, which are pre-paid funeral arrangements.
In August, Gavin entered a guilty plea for 36 counts of theft from an elderly or disabled person, grand theft, tampering with records and violation of pre-needs contracts.
In total, Gavin was ordered to repay $243,898.33.
“She had taken money for people who had pre-arranged for their funerals. People who were going into nursing homes and had to spend down their assets so they could pay for their funeral,” said Ward Barrentine, assistant county Prosecutor.
Instead of taking the funds from those contracts and putting them in a trust or life insurance policy, which is required by law, Gavin spent the money on her own personal expenses, according to Barrentine.
“The reason the business failed is because she was stealing from it,” Barrentine said.
The funeral home closed last year after Gavin and husband Hugh Gavin surrendered their embalmers and funeral directors’ licenses and their funeral home’s license to the Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors.
“I will never forgive Ms. Gavin for the pain she caused my father,” said Julie Deschenes while addressing Adkins in court. “She took advantage of an elderly man who was still grieving the loss of his wife. Her actions are unforgivable and despicable. This for us is not about the money, but about the unethical and illegal act of a selfish, irresponsible woman.”
Gavin, who declined to speak in court, paid back about $78,000 of the approximately $329,000 she was originally accused of stealing, according to Gavin’s attorney James Ambrose.
Gavin also filed fraudulent annual reports with the state board in an attempt to conceal evidence of her theft.
Last month, Ambrose told this newspaper that the prosecutor’s office determined that Gavin’s theft dated back to 1997.
Hugh Gavin declined to comment after the sentencing.
Hugh Gavin was not charged because the prosecutor’s office examined the whole Magetti-Gavin operation and discovered that Michelle Gavin was the only one stealing and misusing the money, Barrentine said.
After Gavin is released from prison, she will be on probation for five years, according to Barrentine.
Gavin is the second local former funeral director to be found guilty of a prepaid funeral services scam.
Scherrie McLin, former funeral director of the McLin Funeral Home in Dayton, was sentenced to four years in prison in last September for stealing approximately $200,000 in prepaid funeral contract money.
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