Cemetery owner set to plead guilty to tax evasion

AP News
Posted: Mar 23, 2011 7:01 PM
Cemetery owner set to plead guilty to tax evasion

A cemetery owner charged with helping steal millions from funeral home trust funds in three states is expected to plead guilty to tax evasion next week, federal authorities said.

Clayton Smart appeared in federal court Wednesday. Judge Samuel Mays approved a deal reached by prosecutors and defense attorneys to have the tax evasion charge transferred from Oklahoma to Tennessee.

Authorities also agreed to move Smart, a 71-year-old former oilman from Oklahoma, from state custody to a federal prison in Tennessee.

Smart was indicted in April 2007 in Memphis. Smart and at least two others were charged in courts in Tennessee and Michigan with diverting $20 million from cemetery trust funds over 2 1/2 years for personal use, authorities said. The cemeteries are located in Tennessee and Michigan.

Prosecutors in Oklahoma say Smart filed a federal tax return for 2004 showing he had no income that year. But prosecutors said Smart actually made more than $11 million and owed more than $4 million in taxes in 2004.

His plea hearing on tax evasion charge is set for April 1. He faces up to five years in prison.

Smart also agreed earlier to plead to several of the state counts from Tennessee and Michigan, including theft of property of $60,000, according to authorities.