- Attorney General Anne Milgram and Criminal
Justice Director Deborah L. Gramiccioni announced
that a Passaic County funeral director pleaded
guilty today to stealing more than $56,000
in funds that were intended to pay for funerals
for families that could not afford them.
According to Gramiccioni,
Manuel E. Martinez, 56, of Paterson, a licensed
funeral director, pleaded guilty before Superior
Court Judge Joseph Falcone in Passaic County
to a criminal accusation charging him with
third-degree theft by deception.
As owner and funeral director
of Martinez’s 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
conducted and coordinated the investigation.
Rodriguez represented the Division of Criminal
Justice at the guilty plea hearing.
Judge Falcone scheduled sentencing
for Nov. 6. Under the plea agreement, the
state will recommend a sentence of probation.
At the time of sentencing, Martinez will pay
$56,150 in restitution and will surrender
his New Jersey funeral director’s license.
Martinez will be permanently barred from holding
a funeral director’s license in New