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Last updateThu, 19 Nov 2015 8pm

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Crouch seeks to appeal cemetery fraud conviction

Robert Ray Crouch — sentenced to five years in prison, fined $35,000 and ordered to pay more than $84,000 in restitution for defrauding customers of the former Meadow-Brooke Memorial Gardens cemetery in King George — has filed a notice of appeal and is seeking to overturn his convictions.

Crouch, 47, was convicted by a King George Circuit Court earlier this year of nine counts of failure to deposit in the proper trust account and five counts of receiving money by false pretenses.  The jury convicting him recommended the sentences handed down by Circuit Court Judge Martin Bass.

Appearing in King George Circuit Court last week,  Crouch sought a court appointed counsel to handle the appeal of his convictions, testifying that he had no funds to pay an attorney.  Vanessa Jordan of Fredericksburg was appointed by Judge Bass to handle the case, and she promptly filed the notice of appeal.
Jordan is expected to file a petition within the next few weeks stating the grounds for Crouch’s appeal.  Then,  King George Commonwealth’s Attorney Keri Gusmann will have 21 days to file a response. The decision about whether the appeal will be heard will made by the Virginia Court of Appeals.

At Crouch’s trial in March,  Gusmann was passionate in her arguments for his conviction.  

“Mr. Crouch was accused and convicted of a despicable act,” Gussman told the court.  “He stole from people who were at their most vulnerable point.”

After listening to more than 35 witnesses and reviewing 40 pieces of evidence, jurors found Crouch guilty.   Judge Bass followed the jury’s recommendation and imposed a sentence of 60 months of incarceration, $35,000 in fines and ordered Crouch to pay restitution in the amount of $84,420.51.

Among those present when Crouch was sentenced was Herb Nichols, an investigator from the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation.  Nichols helped King George authorities build a case that Crouch had illegally obtained money from cemetery trusts by filing false affidavits. Virginia law requires that money for pre-paid merchandise used at the cemetery be placed into a trust.  

“I am hopeful that by being able to secure this conviction, the victims and their loved ones will now have some closure,” Gusmann said at the time Crouch was sentenced.  It will now be up to the Court of Appeals to determine whether the conviction is upheld.


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