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November 13, 09

NEWS / Passaic County Funeral Director Sentenced for Stealing More than $56,000 Intended to Cover Funeral C

TRENTON - Attorney General Anne Milgram announced that a Passaic County funeral director was sentenced today for stealing more than $56,000 in funds that were intended to pay for funerals for families that could not afford them.

According to Criminal Justice Director Deborah L. Gramiccioni, Manuel E. Martinez, 56, of Paterson, was sentenced to one year of probation by Superior Court Judge Joseph Falcone in Passaic County. Martinez pleaded guilty on June 5 to an accusation charging him with third-degree theft by deception.

Under the plea agreement, Martinez delivered a check for $56,150 in restitution for the Passaic County Board of Social Services at the sentencing hearing. He previously surrendered his New Jersey funeral directorís license and will be permanently barred from holding such a license in the state.

As owner and funeral director of Martinezís Funeraria Latina, Inc., on Market Street in Paterson, Martinez provided funeral services to people who received public assistance. As part of the Work First New Jersey Program, Martinez was eligible to be reimbursed $2,246 per decedent from the State of New Jersey through the Passaic County Board of Social Services (PCBSS) to subsidize the cost of the funeral service. Representatives of the deceased can contribute up to $1,570 for funeral costs without Martinez losing funding from PCBSS.

In pleading guilty, Martinez admitted that between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2008, he submitted 25 fraudulent applications for reimbursement to the PCBSS. On each occasion, Martinez falsely claimed that he was eligible for the full $2,246 because he had not received more than $1,570 from any representative of the deceased. PCBSS referred the investigation to the Division of Criminal Justice. The Division of Criminal Justice determined that to support the fraudulent claims, Martinez submitted false statements on behalf of family representatives without their knowledge and forged their signatures on documents. He received reimbursement for the maximum amount of $2,246, when he had actually accepted payments of more than $1,570 from representatives of the deceased. As a result, Martinez illegally collected $56,150 to which he was not entitled.

Detective Michael J. Fallon and Deputy Attorneys General Janet Bosi and Betty Rodriguez conducted and coordinated the investigation. Deputy Attorney General Rodriguez represented the Division of Criminal Justice at the sentencing.


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