Towler sentenced to serve jail time, pay $62,449
by Michele Longworth
Oct 10, 2012 | 1315 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On Friday morning in Massac Circuit Court, with Judge Joe Leberman presiding, Gary R. Towler, 69, of Normal, was sentenced to 120 days of jail and ordered to pay restitution of $62,449.95 on seven felony counts relating to his operation of the Metropolis Memorial Gardens.

Towler reported to Massac County Detention Center Tuesday at 9 a.m., when Towler's 120 days of jail time begins. However, as a non-violent offense, Towler is eligible for day-for-day credit by law, and his release date could come as early as Dec. 7.

Towler pleaded guilty on May 7, 2012 to violations of the pre-need cemetery sales act and the cemetery care act. In addition to the jail sentence and restitution to the cemetery trust, Towler was placed on 30 months conditional discharge and ordered to pay a fine of $500 on each count. Towler paid $20,000 toward restitution at the time of the sentence and his bond of $10,000 was also applied toward restitution. Towler will be required to pay the remaining balance on a monthly basis.

Metropolis Memorial Gardens is being operated by a court-appointed receiver at the request of the Illinois Comptroller's Office. While the cemetery is in receivership, families of those with pre-need contracts at their death are required to pay a second time for the cost of burial at the current price, and they are then referred to Illinois' Cemetery Consumer Protection Fund for reimbursement, which can take several months. When the receiver sells the cemetery, the new owner will be obligated to honor those pre-need contracts. A deficiency in the cemetery trust funds would be an obstacle to any sale by the receiver.

"Our office had two goals in the prosecution of this case," Massac County State's Attorney Patrick Windhorst said. "First, we wanted Mr. Towler punished for his actions. Second, we also wanted to ensure the cemetery trusts received restitution, so the cemetery can be sold and those pre-need contracts will be honored without individuals having to pay twice."

The charges arose from an investigation and audit performed by the Illinois Comptroller's Office and the Illinois State Police. The investigation revealed that from January 1, 2004, until February 28, 2008, approximately $150,000 had not been deposited into the cemetery's trust funds as required, that the cemetery did not maintain adequate records, that the cemetery did not file and annual report for 2008 and that the cemetery's pre-need sales contract forms did not comply with the statute.

Each of the seven counts is a Class 4 Felony, and each had a possible penalty of one to three years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Towler was also eligible for probation. If Towler violates his conditional discharge, he is still subject to a sentence of imprisonment.

After Leberman asked Towler if he wished to make a statement to the court, Towler responded by saying, "I don't know that I could add anything."

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