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Michael Tomaszewski

December 28, 2021 - 1:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, Michael Tomaszewski, notify.

The trustee in the Michael S. Tomaszewski bankruptcy case has asked the court to order Tomaszewski's wife to turn over an anticipated income tax refund once it is received.

Attorneys for Trustee Mark J. Schlant filed the motion last week after Tomaszewski was sentenced to two to six years in prison for defrauding funeral pre-arrangement customers out of, collectively, more than $500,000. 

According to the motion, Michael and Valerie Tomaszewski have jointly claimed refunds of $27,121 for their 2019 and 2020 income tax filings. 

The motion asks the court to order Valerie to turn over $13,560 to the court to help settle some of Michael Tomaszewski's debts.

"The Trustee understands that the Debtor recently might have become somewhat limited in his ability to deal with matters such as this and that the necessary arrangements might put Mrs. Tomaszewski in control of the funds," the motion reads. "Therefore the Trustee wishes to secure Mrs. Tomaszewski's cooperation in effecting the turnover."

The bankruptcy judge, Robert H. Jackson, has not yet responded to the motion.

In bankruptcy filings, Tomaszewski lists $1,094,346 in assets against $3,242,390 in liabilities. 

At his sentencing on Dec. 22, Judge Charles Zambito ordered Tomaszewski ordered the former funeral home operator to pay $569,434.92 in restitution to his victims, starting at $2,000 a month once he's released from prison.

Tomaszewski admitted to misappropriating funds from clients who paid for pre-arrangement services. There were at least 91 such victims.  Many of those victims have filed stipulations with the bankruptcy court protecting those debts from discharge through the bankruptcy process.

December 22, 2021 - 4:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, news, Michael Tomaszewski, batavia, notify.
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If Michael Tomaszewski were to receive the maximum sentence in prison under the law for his crimes, the court would have no leverage to ensure he paid back his victims the more than $500,000 he stole from them, County Court Judge Charles Zambito told a courtroom full of people defrauded by the disgraced funeral director this morning.

To help make sure Tomaszewski is motivated to make restitution, Zambito sent him to prison for a bit less than the maximum term.

Instead of 2 1/2 to seven years in prison, Zambito ordered Tomaszewski to serve from two to six years on the most serious charge he admitted -- grand larceny in the third degree.

On his scheme to defraud and his offering a false instrument for filing, the sentence was 1/3 to four years each, and on the misdemeanor improper burial charge, 364 days.

All sentences are to run concurrently.

"What I can’t break away from is that for 12 years, you went to work every day knowing that the day before you had broken the law and you were going to break the law again," Zambito said. "This isn’t something that you forget about. This is something you don’t know about. You knew what you were supposed to do with that money. You just chose not to do it. Why? Because it was beneficial for you and you figured you would never get caught. That says more to me about your character than any good works you have ever done. I just can’t get around it."

Zambito said the best interest of the community is that Tomaszewski's victims have some assurance that restitution is possible.  With a maximum sentence, once Tomaszewski's time was served, he couldn't be hauled back into court if he stopped paying restitution.  Today's sentence will ensure that if he slips on his obligation, he can serve as much as 15 years total on the conviction.

Public Defender Jerry Ader argued for a community-based sentence (probation, with no prison time) to best ensure Tomaszewski made restitution to his victims. 

During his statement to Zambito, he reminded the judge he had the latitude to use Genesee Justice as it was originally intended, to bring restorative justice to victims and offenders. 

Used in that way, Tomaszewski would be required to meet individually with each of his victims so he would have to face the totality of his crimes, to feel the shame, to explain himself.

"It's innovative," Ader said. "It's not used.  But it's what people want. People are longing to be heard. They want my client to feel shame, more than he's shamed already."

Interim District Attorney Kevin Finnell said he wanted to see Tomaszewski go to prison for the maximum time the law would allow, characterizing Tomaszewski's actions calculating and a crime against the whole community.

"People trusted him," Finnel said. "(His involvement in the community) was simply a way of gaining trust, to be the good guy, to make friends, 'then you will come and give your money and I will take it.'  Mr. Tomaszewski took their money and then broke their trust. 

"What Mr. Tomaszewski did was so egregious, so calculating, so wrong. I would submit that the court has no alternative but to sentence him to the maximum allowed and that's a 2 1/3 to a seven-year term."

Ader pushed back at what he characterized as Finnell's attempt to paint his client as some sort of evil mastermind who fooled everybody in the community just to enrich himself.

He said there is no evidence Tomaszewski has a gambling problem or a drug use problem.  He said his client used the funds he failed to keep in trust to help grow his business; that he invested it in new buildings and new business ventures.

"It all went back into his business," Ader said. "It was wrong and he know it was wrong and he couldn’t stop because the business was helping people and he wanted to help people.

"My client isn't some sort of Bernie Madoff character who is stealing money in this Ponzi and living lavishly. That is somebody who should be punished for the rest of his life. This is somebody who mismanaged. And if you want to call that poor business, poor judgment, those are choices he made. Bad choices. Criminal choices. But they were choices. Yes, his intent, obviously, was to put that money back into the business but he still provided services."

Zambito didn't buy it.

"I don’t believe you are somehow sacrificing your own life, depriving yourself or your family," Zambito said. "You had what appeared to be a very successful business. You say in your pre-sentence investigation that you invested in the business. 'I needed the money for the sprinkler system. I needed the money to start the Dibble Center. Don’t you think there are other business people out there who need the money to improve their businesses, who want to do the best they can to start new ventures? They borrow the money if they don’t have it. They go to banks."

The defense delivered to the court more than 50 letters from members of the community, including letters from people who were clients of the funeral home, attesting to Tomaszewski's good character, saying he was a good guy who just made a mistake and mismanaged his business.  They pointed to his involvement with the Lions Club, to his charitable work, to his support of community organizations.

Zambito said he also had a binder containing information on 91 victims of Tomaszewski's fraud, documenting more than 12 years of criminal activity that cost members of the community more than $500,000. Yes, some of those victims do only want restitution, Zambito said, but many others want justice, they want Tomaszewski to go to prison.

"They believe that the scope and breadth of your crimes outweigh the positive things that can be said about you," Zambito said.  "I get that you did good things but you did it with other peoples' money."

After adjusting for the $32,000 Tomaszewski was going to pay today and five percent interest on the original amount of restitution required, Tomaszewski owes his victims $569,434.92.

Zambito ordered Tomaszewski to pay $2,000 a month upon his release from prison, which Zambito said he felt Tomaszewski would have no trouble making full restitution within 10 years of his release because he's shown he has the ability to earn money, particularly in the restaurant business.  

Currently, Tomaszewski's former funeral home building is listed for sale for $1 million and another building he owns on West Main Street is listed for $165,000.  He also has a pending bankruptcy with $3,242,390 in liabilities.  The money owed to victims who filed claims in the federal court cannot be discharged through the bankruptcy proceeding.

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Al Kurek, one of Tomaszewski's victims, made a statement to the court during today's hearing. He called Tomaszewski one of the community's "golden boys" who had a successful business and won people's trust but squandered his accomplishment. 

"There was only one problem," Kurek said. "All the time he was offering comfort and condolences, he was practicing deceit.  He sat across from clients over the years, stared them in the eye, shook their hands providing them with assurance and comfort while all the time knowing that their monies were going directly into his pocket.

"What he actually gave clients was mental anguish and suffering as well as lies, pain, grief, and heartache. The Batavia community had its soul scorched when all of Michael's criminal and unethical activities were revealed." 

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Joan Mariucci said Tomaszewski stole her trust.

"There are two Rs," she said. "There’s rich and there’s retired.  We’re retired. We’re not the rich. We don’t have that kind of money just laying around to give to someone else."

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Interim District Attorney Kevin Finnell.

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Public Defender Jerry Ader.

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Judge Charles Zambito.

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December 7, 2021 - 2:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Michael Tomaszewski, crime, batavia, news, notify.
tomaszewskimugdec2021a.jpg
Michael Tomaszewski

The sentencing of former funeral home director Michael Tomaszewski on fraud charges has been delayed again because he's tested positive for COVID-19.

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman said Tomaszewski's attorney produced a document showing his client had tested positive.

County Court Judge Charles Zambito ordered Tomaszewski to the Genesee County Jail where he was tested again.  That test, according to Friedman, was also positive.

Tomaszewski's court appearance has been delayed until an as yet undetermined date.

The former funeral director entered a guilty plea in April to counts of grand larceny, scheme to defraud, offering a false instrument for filing, and untimely burial.

Jail Superintendent William Zipfel said he can't discuss the health status of an inmate at the jail but said since the start of the pandemic, per the protocol of the state's Commission of Corrections, all new inmates are quarantined for their first 14 days in jail.

His sentencing on the conviction has been delayed multiple times for various reasons.

Story updated at 4:11 p.m.

November 10, 2021 - 10:43am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Michael Tomaszewski, crime, batavia, news, notify.

For the fourth time since he entered a guilty plea for defrauding funeral home customers, Michael Tomaszewski today was granted a delay in his sentencing by Genesee County Court Judge Charles Zambito.

Zambito said he granted the delay reluctantly, noting that at Tomaszewski's last court appearance he told him that continuance would be the last one.

Tomaszewski fired his previous attorney, Thomas Burns, and had told the court in October that he was going to hire a specific private attorney.  He did not hire that attorney and, yesterday, Tomaszewski asked for representation by the Public Defenders Office.

First Assistant District Attorney Kevin Finnell, who is also new to the case, called Tomaszewski's failure to retain a new attorney in a timely manner a "delaying tactic."  He asked Zambito to proceed with the sentencing today.

Today, Public Defender Jerry Ader appeared with Tomaszewski and said that doesn't know enough about the case or Tomaszewski to appropriately represent him and requested Zambito give him time to review files he received on a flash drive from Burns.  He said he hadn't opened the flash drive yet and doesn't know what documents might be on it, what might be missing, nor how many documents he needs to review to prepare for sentencing.

"I don’t have an idea right now how much time I need," Ader said. "I don’t know how much information I need."

Zambito noted that Tomaszewski owes a substantial amount of restitution to his victims, holding up a binder at least three inches thick that he indicated contains restitution claims.

In the gallery, there were a couple of dozen victims who came to court expectingTomaszewski to finally be sentenced.

"There are people here who have been here repeatedly, victims who want to address the court," Zambito told Ader. "There have been victims who have passed away. I received a notice earlier this week that a victim had passed away and this matter still isn't settled."

"I don't what his release status is or bail," Ader said. "I don't know if my client has always appeared in court or what his track record is."

He said with the prospect of Tomaszewski owing victims money, locking him in jail would mean Tomaszewski, who is employed, would stop earning money that might help pay restitution.

And that is a complicating factor in preparing for sentencing, Ader said. He didn't think a two-week delay would give him enough time to prepare. 

Some of the victims in the gallery whispered to each their dissatisfaction with the delay as the hearing proceeded.  Outside court, a couple confirmed they were disappointed but also said they understand how the court system works.

"I came in, I figured the same thing would happen," said Harry Tyson. "It's just going to be dragged out. And next time we come, it'd be something different. Dragged out. I guess he's doing his job as a lawyer. But, you know, we'd like to see it ramped up and get it over with."

His wife, Kathy, said, "I heard today that he waived his right to a speedy trial for his benefit. But what about everybody that keeps coming back, coming back? Waiting for something to happen?"

Their family lost $7,000 and have little expectation of being repaid, Kathy Tyson said.

"If people cannot get paid back, then I think he needs to be in jail," she said. "I really do. He can't be out there running around and doing whatever."

Al Kurek said he considered Tomaszewski a friend and was disappointed in him.  Kurek said he lost $2,800.

"I don't know what happened," Kurek said. "He got too big, too fast? No idea why, but I don't think it was drugs. I don't know if it was gambling. Nobody knows. It's just more out of the pocket than in. What can I say?"

The former funeral director entered a guilty plea in April -- a hearing that had also been delayed a couple of times -- to counts of grand larceny, scheme to defraud, offering a false instrument for filing, and untimely burial.

The plea offer included no promise of a sentence of lesser than the statutory time in prison of two and a third to seven years and he was scheduled for sentencing yesterday.

Tomaszewski, who operated the Michael S. Tomaszewski Funeral Home and Cremation Chapel in Batavia for more than a decade, was initially arrested in July 2020.  He initially faced more than 200 charges stemming from accusations that he took money from customers who intended to prepay for funerals and, instead of depositing the money in appropriate accounts, he allegedly used the money for other purposes.

Both personally, and through his company, Acme Holdings of New York, Tomaszewski filed for bankruptcy in Federal Court on Feb. 5, 2020. Combined, Tomaszewski listed $1,094,346 in assets against $3,242,390 in liabilities. 

This morning, Zambito wondered if he should revoke Tomaszewski's bail status -- he's released on his own recognizance -- and Ader said he didn't even know enough about the case to represent Tomaszewski on that question.

Zambito said he wanted to make sure Ader had enough time to prepare, he said, because "I'm not going to grant another adjournment."

Ader said there would be "no problem getting the case resolved before the end of the year."

The new sentencing date is Dec. 7 at 10:30 a.m.

Tomaszewski has not missed a court date and when Zambito warned him that if he doesn't appear on Dec. 7, he will be sentenced in his absence. 

"I'll be here, Judge," Tomaszewski said. 

August 5, 2021 - 12:53pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Michael Tomaszewski, crime, batavia, news.

A continuance was granted to Michael Tomaszewski on Wednesday morning for his sentencing on his fraud conviction.

The former funeral director entered a guilty plea in April to counts of grand larceny, scheme to defraud, offering a false instrument for filing, and untimely burial.

The plea offer included no promise of a sentence of lesser than the statutory time in prison of two and a third to seven years and he was scheduled for sentencing yesterday.

The court did not release information on the reason for the delay.

The new date is Oct. 6 at 1:30 p.m.

For previous coverage of Tomaszewski, click here.

April 23, 2021 - 2:23pm

Three new orders in the bankruptcy case of Michael Tomaszewski put 19 more of his victims at the front of the line -- at least as far as the bankruptcy proceeding goes -- for getting at least some of their money back from his scheme to divert funeral deposits to his own expenditures.

Tomaszewski was arrested last summer on more than 200 charges stemming from complaints that he mishandled deposits, known as prearrangement fees, for funerals and defrauded victims out of more than $500,000 in total.

Earlier this month, he entered a guilty plea to grand larceny, scheme to defraud, offering a false instrument for filing, and untimely burial and is facing a possible prison term as a result.

Separately, in February 2020 he filed for bankruptcy in Federal Court. He listed $1,094,346 in assets against $3,242,390 in liabilities. 

As part of his plea deal, he agreed to pay restitution to his victims. The exact amount of restitution has yet to be determined but it was revealed during his last court appearance that he has already reimbursed some of his victims.

The amounts owed to victims listed in the three recent orders are:

  • $1,950
  • $1,950
  • $4,400
  • $4,400
  • $7,063.62
  • $11,000
  • $11,000
  • $2,000
  • $4,000
  • $5,300
  • $5,300
  • $15,500
  • $15,500
  • $8,750
  • $9,480
  • $2,950
  • $2,950
  • $2,950
  • $2,950

Many of the victims are married couples with each person having a separate claim for their individual deposits.

Under federal bankruptcy law, any money gained through fraud is a debt that is not dischargeable through Chapter 7 and victims receive priority for repayment for the first $3,025 owed to them.

For previous coverage of the Tomaszewski case, click here.

April 21, 2021 - 11:56am

An order has been entered in Michael Tomaszewski's federal bankruptcy case declaring five more debts as the result of the former funeral director's fraud nondischargeable, meaning the debts won't be forgiven as part of the Chapter 7 proceedings.

The five individuals are owed $5,300, $5,300, $15,500, $15,500, and $8,750 for prearrangement deposits they made.

Tomaszewski, arrested last summer, admitted in Genesee County Court a week ago to taking more than $500,000 in funeral arrangement deposits and using the money for other expenditures. The money is supposed to be kept in interest-bearing escrow accounts.

He is scheduled to be sentenced for his crimes on July 13 and at which time he will agree to pay restitution to his victims.  

Not all of the victims have had the money they're owed included in the bankruptcy, which is handled by a federal court while the criminal matter and related restitution order is handled by county court.

In his bankruptcy, Tomaszewski listed more than $3.2 million in debts against $1 million in assets.

In his order, Judge Carl L. Bucki cited a section of federal bankruptcy law that says a debtor cannot discharge any debt that was the result of fraud or misrepresentation. 

Previously, Bucki issued a similar order for three other individuals. In all eight cases, the individuals listed in the order receive priority for repayment of the first $3,025 of debt, per person, under federal bankruptcy law.

For prior coverage of Tomaszewski's criminal case and bankruptcy proceedings, click here.

April 14, 2021 - 4:34pm

A federal bankruptcy judge in Buffalo has ruled that three debts of former funeral director Michael Tomaszewski cannot be discharged under bankruptcy law.

The three debts are part of more than $3.2 million in liabilities Tomaszewski listed when filing for bankruptcy in February 2020. He initially filed for Chapter 11, a reorganization of debts, but changed the filing to a Chapter 7, forgiveness of all debts not covered by available assets, last month.

Yesterday, in a separate criminal matter, Tomaszewski entered a guilty plea to grand larceny, scheme to defraud, offering a false instrument for filing, and untimely burial. Over the summer, the 40-year-old Batavia native was charged with more than 200 counts of criminal conduct stemming from a scheme to divert deposits made on prearrangements for funeral services to his own personal use.

The amount of restitution he will owe former clients will be set at his sentencing on July 13. He faces a possible sentence from two and one-third to seven years in prison. The restitution order could approach $500,000.

In his ruling, Judge Carl L. Bucki cited a section of federal bankruptcy law that says a debtor cannot discharge any debt that was the result of fraud or misrepresentation. 

According to the ruling, Tomaszewski will remain liable for prearrangement deposits from individuals for $10,500, $8,000, and $8,000. Under bankruptcy law, the three individuals are entitled to priority repayment for the first $3,025 of each debt.

The bankruptcy proceedings only include debts listed in the filing. Not all victims of Tomaszewski are listed as claimants in the case.

April 13, 2021 - 4:59pm

Michael Tomaszewski, the former local funeral home owner accused of misusing his client's deposit money and improperly disposing of human remains, entered a guilty plea this afternoon to felony charges that could send him to prison for up to seven years.

The plea offer included no promise of a sentence of lesser than the statutory time in prison of two and a third to seven years for his guilty plea to grand larceny, scheme to defraud, offering a false instrument for filing, and untimely burial.

The sentences for each count will run concurrently under the terms of the plea.  

Prior to Tomaszewki's last court appearance, he disclosed, through his attorney Thomas Burns, to the Sheriff's Office that the remains of another body could be found in his former funeral home. A human body was recovered.

As a result of that investigation, he is expected to be charged with another misdemeanor charge of untimely burial. Under terms of the plea deal, he is expected to plead guilty to that charge and any sentence on that charge would run concurrently to the charges disposed of in today's hearing.

Sentencing for the 40-year-old Batavia resident is scheduled for July 13 at 1:30 p.m.

Tomaszewski was arrested last summer and accused of taking money from clients who had made prearrangement deposits. He misappropriated as much as $15,000 from some clients.

Clients may have suffered a cumulative loss of more than $525,000. 

At his sentencing on July 13, Tomaszewski, under terms of the deal, must agree to make restitution in the amount specified by the prosecution.  

Assistant District Attorney Kaitlynn Schmit told Judge Charles Zambito today that she couldn't provide the exact amount of restitution because Tomaszewski has already paid some people back and there needs to be further research into exactly how much he owes his victims.

Burns said he and Schmit had reached an agreement to delay sentencing by four weeks over the standard time between a plea and sentencing to allow more time to arrive at the final restitution figure.

In a bankruptcy filing last year, which is still pending, Tomaszewski listed $1,094,346 in assets against $3,242,390 in liabilities. 

UPDATE 5:05 p.m.: The Sheriff's Office has released the arrest report on the additional charge against Tomaszewski, duty to bury. According to the Sheriff's Office, after being notified by Burns of the body, a body of a deceased person who had died Sept. 10, 2019, was recovered at the former funeral home. The body was removed and buried. Tomaszewski was issued an appearance ticket on the charge.

March 19, 2021 - 3:10pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Michael Tomaszewski, news, crime, batavia, notify.

The Sheriff's Office has recovered the remains of another person apparently turned over to Michael S. Tomaszewski Funeral Home and Cremation Chapel for interment.

Chief Deputy Joseph Graff said no other information about the recovery will be released at this time. The case is under investigation and Graff said there will be a press release about the case if new charges are filed against Michael Tomaszewski.

Tomaszewski is already facing criminal charges for an alleged failure to properly bury the remains of a military veteran along with more than 200 criminal charges for allegedly misappropriating funds deposited with his business by families expecting to make prearrangments for funerals. The criminal complaint indicates the majority of customers lost from more than $2,000 up to $15,500 each.

There was also an allegation last year that Tomaszewski mishandled the remains of a baby but that case has never resulted in charges.

Graff said the discovery of the remains this week was the result of information provided to the Sheriff's Office by Tomaszewski's attorney. Tomaszewski is represented by Thomas Burns.

There is a plea offer pending for Tomaszewski and the defendant was expected to accept the plea at a hearing earlier this week but after an off-the-record conference with Judge Charles Zambito, the hearing was postponed until April 13.

This week, Tomaszewski's bankruptcy case was converted from a Chapter 11 (reorganization of debt) to a Chapter 7 (liquidation).

March 17, 2021 - 3:54pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Michael Tomaszewski, crime, news, batavia, notify.

Rather than reorganizing his debt, Michael S. Tomaszewski, the local funeral director also facing more than 200 criminal charges, is now seeking to dismiss all of his debt.

Today U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Carl L. Bucki signed an order converting Tomaszewski's bankruptcy filing from Chapter 11, in which a judge helps debtors and creditors arrive at a repayment plan, to Chapter 7, which would allow Tomaszewski to liquidate most of his assets and have any debts not paid after liquidation discharged.

Tomaszewski, both personally, and his company Acme Holdings of New York filed for bankruptcy in Federal Court on Feb. 5. Combined, Tomaszewski lists $1,094,346 in assets against $3,242,390 in liabilities. 

That doesn't include any restitution he may be ordered to pay if convicted of the nearly 200 criminal charges he faces locally.

The 48-year-old funeral director and owner of Michael S. Tomaszewski Funeral Home and Cremation Chapel is charged with 91 counts of failure to deposit monies paid in advance in connection with agreements for funeral merchandise or services. He also charged with 61 counts of third-degree grand larceny, 29 counts of fourth-degree grand larceny, and three counts of petit larceny.

According to the Sheriff's Office arrest report from July 23, Tomaszewski received deposits from customers ranging from $350 to $15,500. His customers allegedly suffered a combined loss of more than $525,000.

The bankruptcy filing for Acme Holding remains Chapter 11, but there has been no activity on that case since February.

Yesterday, Tomaszewski was expected to formally accept a plea deal in his criminal case but for reasons unstated in court, the defendant declined to proceed and was granted a continuance of his case until April 13.

March 16, 2021 - 5:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Michael Tomaszewski, crime, batavia, news, notify.

An anticipated plea from Michael S. Tomaszewski in his funeral home fraud case has been delayed until April 13 for reasons not revealed during a brief County Court hearing today.

During the virtual hearing, Judge Charles Zambito and both attorneys -- Thomas Burns for the defense and Assistant District Attorney Kaitlynn Schmit -- mentioned a prior off-the-record discussion about the case without indicating what was discussed, but it seemed to have some bearing on Tomaszewski's decision not to enter a plea today.

For the record, Schmit said she thought there should be no delay in the plea.

"I don’t think our discussion today is going to have any effect on the plea offer," Schmit said. "I would like to have closure for the victims in these cases. I would ask that we proceed with the defendant’s plea if that’s how he intends on proceeding."

There is no indication that Tomaszewski won't accept the plea deal that's been offered by the District Attorney's Office.  

At a hearing in early February, the pending plea offer was discussed. Under the terms, Tomaszewski would admit to a Class D felony, a Class E felony, and a misdemeanor public health law offense. There is no cap on Tomaszewski's possible sentence but his time would run concurrently on all three counts. 

The plea couldn't be accepted at that hearing because Tomaszewski had not yet been arraigned in Town of Batavia Court on pending charges in that jurisdiction.

Today, Zambito appointed himself acting town justice and accepted Tomaszewski's not guilty plea to those charges during an arraignment.

Those charges will be satisfied with a guilty plea if Tomaszewski accepts the pending plea offer.

Tomaszewski, who operated the Michael S. Tomaszewski Funeral Home and Cremation Chapel in Batavia for more than a decade, faces more than 200 charges stemming from accusations that he took money from customers who intended to prepay for funerals and, instead of depositing the money in appropriate accounts, he allegedly used the money for other purposes.

The criminal complaint indicates the majority of customers lost from more than $2,000 up to $15,500 each.

The charges include 67 counts of third-degree grand larceny, 28 counts of fourth-degree grand larceny, four counts of falsifying business records, 93 counts of failure to deposit, seven counts of petit larceny, and counts of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree, and scheme to defraud.

He's also accused of improperly handling the remains of a deceased veteran. 

While his criminal case is pending, so his bankruptcy case. He filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2020. There was a hearing on the case yesterday, but the results of that hearing are not yet publicly available.

February 3, 2021 - 11:40am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Michael Tomaszewski, crime, batavia, notify, news.

Michael S. Tomaszewski, the funeral home director accused of stealing money from customers, is apparently set to accept a plea offer from the District Attorney's Office but COVID-related delays in town courts are holding up the process.

Tomaszewski made a virtual appearance in Genesee County Court yesterday.

He faces one SCI (Superior Court Information, like an indictment but without a grand jury hearing, which Tomaszewski waived) with more than 200 criminal counts and there is another SCI coming but he has not been arraigned on those counts because courts in the towns of Batavia and Oakfield have been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Judge Charles Zambito indicated that he could possibly arraign Tomaszewski on those counts under specific circumstances, but said he would need to check with the court supervisor to ensure those circumstances are met in this case. Zambito said these are uncharted waters and the rules are changing a lot. 

Tomaszewski is accused of taking money people used to prepay for funerals and, instead of depositing the money in appropriate accounts, he allegedly used the money for other purposes.

The SCI indicates the majority of customers lost from more than $2,000 up to $15,500 each.

The charges include 67 counts of third-degree grand larceny, 28 counts of fourth-degree grand larceny, four counts of falsifying business records, 93 counts of failure to deposit, seven counts of petit larceny, and counts of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree, and scheme to defraud.

Attorney Thomas Burns, representing Tomaszewski, said his client intends to accept the plea offer. Tomaszewski would admit to a Class D felony, a Class E felony, and a misdemeanor public health law offense. There is no cap on Tomaszewski's possible sentence but his time would run concurrently on all three counts. 

The case is adjourned until 1:30 p.m., March 8, and will resume virtually.

Alecia Kaus/Video News Service contributed to this story.

December 23, 2020 - 9:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Michael Tomaszewski, crime, news, batavia, notify.
tomaszewskimugjuly2020.jpg
     Michael Tomaszewski

Funeral home owner Michael S. Tomaszewski, arrested in July after an investigation that uncovered multiple incidences of potential fraud, was arraigned in Genesee County Court today on more than 200 counts of grand larceny, falsifying business records, offering a false instrument in filing, scheme to defraud, and failure to deposit.

As he did when first arrested and arraigned in Town of Batavia Court, Tomaszewski entered a not guilty plea.

Tomaszewski waived his right to have a grand jury review the evidence against him and potentially issue indictments against him. He was arraigned on what's known as Superior Court Information (SCI) that lays out all the charges in the same form as a grand jury indictment.

It is 101 pages long.

Tomaszewski is accused of taking money people used to prepay for funerals and instead of depositing the money in appreciate bank accounts then using the money for other purposes.

The SCI indicates the majority of customers lost from more than $2,000 up to $15,500 each.

The charges include: 67 counts of third-degree grand larceny; 28 counts of fourth-degree grand larceny; four counts of falsifying business records; 93 counts of failure to deposit; seven counts of petit larceny; and counts of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree; and scheme to defraud.

During the virtual arraignment today, the attorneys discussed the possibility of reaching a plea deal within the next six weeks.

Tomaszewski remains released from custody on his own recognizance. His next scheduled court appearance, which will also be virtual, is 1:30 p.m., Feb. 2.

Alecia Kaus/Video News Service contributed to this report.

Previously:

November 18, 2020 - 2:54pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in news, batavia, notify, Michael Tomaszewski.
tomaszewskimugjuly2020.jpg
      Michael Tomaszewski

Michael S. Tomaszewski, already facing multiple felony charges for allegedly misappropriating money from customers, has now officially been accused of mishandling the remains of an Army veteran in 2018.

Tomaszewski has been charged with offering a false instrument for filing and also of violation of Public Health Law 4200 for allegedly not burying a dead person's body within a reasonable period of time.

Peter Vandetta, a 20-year Army veteran, died in April 2018. Coroner Jeff McIntire fielded a complaint from the estranged stepdaughter of Vandetta in January 2019 about the whereabouts of Vandetta's remains.

The Sheriff's Office then became involved in the investigation.

It's alleged that Tomaszewski stored the body for 264 days at his facility on West Main Street, Batavia, from April 2018 to January 2019.

Tomaszewski also filed a death certificate indicating the body was buried at a specific cemetery on a specific date. It's alleged that information was not truthful. 

The Sheriff's Office said in a release today that Vandetta's remains did subsequently receive a proper burial.

Tomaszewski was issued an appearance ticket for both charges. He is scheduled to appear on the charges in Town of Batavia Court on Dec. 3 and Town of Oakfield Court on Dec. 7.

In June, Tomaszewski was arrested following a lengthy investigation into claims that he was using money paid to him for pre-arrangements for other purposes. He faces more than 100 criminal charges.

Tomaszewski and his company Acme Holdings are in the midst of federal bankruptcy proceedings and his former funeral home property and catering facility are for sale.

Previously:

October 8, 2020 - 3:04pm

Batavia-based funeral director Michael Scott Tomaszewski was arraigned on 15 new charges in Genesee County Court this morning as a result of the continuing investigation of his business practices.

He owns Michael S. Tomaszewski Funeral Home & Cremation Chapel, Acme Holdings of NY Inc., which owns the building that houses his funeral home on West Main Street Road, and adjacent property, including the Dibble Family Center.

On July 23, the Edgewood Drive resident, 48, was charged with 91 counts of failure to deposit monies paid in advance in connection with agreements for funeral merchandise or services for 91 customers.

Since his initial arrest, 11 additional victims came forward.

Today's virtual arraignment via Skype in front of Judge Charles Zambito was for:

  • Seven counts of third-degree larceny (Class D felony);
  • Grand larceny in the fourth degree (Class E felony);
  • Three counts of petit larceny (Class A misdemeanor); and
  • Four counts of failure to deposit monies (in violation of NYS General Obligations law).

According to the report from the Genesee County Sheriff's Office, Investigator Christopher Parker states the new charges "represent additional allegations concerning conduct related to monies paid to Tomaszewski for prepaid funeral and grave markers which were not used for their intended purpose."

In February, Tomaszewski filed for bankruptcy for Acme Holdings under Chapter 11 in Federal Court. He has also filed for personal bankruptcy.

Following today's arraignment, Tomaszewski was released on his own recognizance.

The investigation is continuing.

Anybody who wishes to check the status of any prepaid account can call (800) 577-3752 to verify the existence of a preplan account. Anybody who believes they are a victim is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at (585) 343-5000.

Previously:

Local funeral director charged with stealing money from customers

Sheriff's Office looking into report that Tomaszewski improperly handled stillborn baby's remains

Darien Center couple would like the truth from Tomaszewski about what happened to their daughter's remains

People who think they were defrauded by Tomaszewski should hire an attorney with expertise in bankruptcy, advises law professor

July 30, 2020 - 9:45am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Michael Tomaszewski, crime, news, batavia, notify.

Families who may have been defrauded by Michael S. Tomaszewski when they purchased prepaid funeral arrangements may want to consult with an attorney who is an expert in bankruptcy if they wish to recover any lost funds, according to a law school professor from the University at Buffalo.

S. Todd Brown is the vice dean for Academic Affairs for the UB School of Law and teaches bankruptcy law at the school.

"They would need to talk with someone to make sure their interests can be protected in the bankruptcy," Brown said. "I suspect there are lawyers who have been going around talking to different people, some people have probably already reached out to an attorney. This is an incredibly complex area of law."

Tomaszewski, both personally, and his company Acme Holdings of N.Y. filed for bankruptcy in Federal Court Feb. 5. Combined, Tomaszewski lists $1,094,346 in assets against $3,242,390 in liabilities. 

That doesn't include any restitution he may be ordered to pay if convicted of the nearly 200 criminal charges he faces locally.

The 48-year-old funeral director is charged with 91 counts of failure to deposit monies paid in advance in connection with agreements for funeral merchandise or services. He also charged with 61 counts of third-degree grand larceny, 29 counts of fourth-degree grand larceny, 4th, and three counts of petit larceny.

According to the Sheriff's Office arrest report from July 23, Tomaszewski received deposits form customers ranging from $350 to $15,500. His customers allegedly suffered a combined loss of more than $525,000.

That is a sum of money that people might expect a criminal court judge be repaid to victims once the defendant is convicted but it doesn't necessarily work that way, Brown said, when the criminal defendant has also filed for bankruptcy.

In general, bankruptcy allows an individual to discharge debts and get a fresh start. For businesses, Chapter 11 is a chance to reorganize debts. The judge may help the creditors and debtors work out a repayment plan that lowers the debt burden or if assets are liquidated, the bankruptcy judge will issue an order on how cash obtained during the liquidation is divided among creditors.

Creditors who provided secured loans -- meaning collateral for the money borrowed -- are top priority for repayment. If there is any money left over after secured loans have been paid off, the administrative creditors -- people handing the bankruptcy proceedings, such as attorneys -- are paid. Last in line are unsecured creditors. That is people or entities that are owed money but did not secure the debt with collateral.

The exception to this pecking order, Brown said, is when fraud can be proven.

A common example is if a person or business borrowed money under false pretenses, such as claiming assets that didn't exist or using the money for purposes other than promised.

For a funeral director, Brown used the example of borrowing money on the promise to build a new cemetery but then spending the cash on a new Ferrari or a monthlong trip to Las Vegas.

A funeral home director who accepts prepaid deposits for funeral arrangements could be considered a fiduciary (a person legally responsible for ensuring the money is handled only in the way specified by the contract and in the best interest of the person who owns the money). In order to determine whether Tomaszewski had a fiduciary responsibility to his clients, a lawyer would need to review any specific agreement along with applicable state and federal law.

A fiduciary who converts money to some other users cannot discharge the resulting debt in bankruptcy.

Using pre-need funds for other expenses in violation of the pre-need contract may also be considered fraud and fraud can't be discharged.

In either case, a bankruptcy court judge would need to make the determination on the debtor's obligation based on the case presented by an attorney representing such victims.

"This is really important," Brown said. "If they think they've been defrauded by this individual, they need someone who knows how the process works guiding them through it."

He added, "I tell my students when they enter my Intro to Bankruptcy class, I tell them, most of what we cover is general bankruptcy law. Unless you're working under the guidance of a talented and experienced bankruptcy attorney for at least two or three years, you're to commit malpractice if you go out and practice on your own right away because this is a very technical and complicated area of law. The importance of that story is to stress how easy it is for trained attorneys to mess up if they aren't practicing bankruptcy law regularly."

Brown also noted that a person who filed for bankruptcy can't make any payments on debt without the judge's authorization, even to creditors not listed in the bankruptcy. That rule applies for all debts paid for 90 days prior to filing for bankruptcy and until the bankruptcy case is resolved. The bankruptcy trustee has the option to recover any unauthorized payments from the creditors who received them.

Asked if a County Court judge to order restitution paid first, Brown gave an emphatic, "no."

"In terms of who gets paid when that's entirely the role of the bankruptcy court," Brown said.

For anybody who allegedly lost money to Tomaszewski through means other than fraud -- consider the petit theft charges he's facing -- any potential restitution there will be considered unsecured debt, meaning those possible victims will be among the last to get repaid, Brown said.

"People who have been defrauded need to have someone who is expert in bankruptcy law who is keeping a close on out for their interest in this case," Brown said but also acknowledge that for many people in a case such as this, they haven't lost enough money to interest an attorney taking on their case.

Previously:

July 28, 2020 - 8:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, Michael Tomaszewski, news, video, notify.
Video Sponsor

To this day, Zachariah and Danielle Young, of Darien Center, really don't know what happened to the remains of their stillborn daughter, Evangeline Elsie.

evacremationrecord.png

A photo of the document       Michael Tomaszewski reportedly produced showing
Zach Young authorized the 
cremation of his daughter.
Legally, we are told, a verbal
authorization is not permitted.

They have a box of ashes but the don't feel assured that the box contains the ashes of the little girl they still call Eva.

"The paperwork had the date that literally was a scribble on it," Zach said. "We have absolutely no answers as to when she was actually cremated."

The Youngs said they didn't want Eva cremated, at least not at the time the baby may have been cremated. And, as they remember, when Michael Tomaszewski Funeral and Cremation Chapel received the remains of the baby from Rochester Regional Hospital, he said he wouldn't do it.

As Zach remembers it, Tomaszewski, or "Tom," as they knew him, said "something doesn't look right" and so he agreed to hold onto the remains while the Youngs researched the circumstances of their daughter's death. 

The baby was born at UMMC. She had seemed healthy

just days before when doctors detected a strong heartbeat.

On Feb. 22, when Zach and Danielle arrived at the hospital,

the couple was told Eva's heart had stopped beating.

After hours of labor, Danielle gave birth to a lifeless body.

"It was devastating," Zach said.

"A mother knows their baby already before they're born," Danielle said. "A mother already has that bond. It's like having somebody rip that away and be careless with her remains is just insane. I don't understand it."

Genesee County Coronor Karen Lang confirmed that Eva was born Feb. 22 at UMMC and her body was sent to Rochester Regional for an autopsy. Eva's little body was then sent by courier to Tomaszewski. Tomaszewski has acknowledged receiving the body.

But what happened next is muddled by the funeral director's contradictory stories to the Youngs and to Lang.

On Thursday, the Sheriff's Office announced the arrest of Tomaszewski on about 200 charges. Most of the charges are related to allegations that he misappropriated fund families had prepaid for funeral services. He is also accused of failing to fulfill contracts to purchase headstones and gravesites.

What he hasn't been charged with yet -- and it's unclear if there will be charges -- is how he handled the remains of some deceased people. Chief Deputy Joseph Graff, Sheriff's Office, has confirmed, the department is looking into multiple reports of Tomaszewski mishandling the remains of people who died. The two cases Graff has confirmed involved a veteran who should have been interred at the Bath National Cemetary -- for free -- and the remains of Evangeline Elsie Young.

Lang said she became involved in the Young case after talking with the parents last November. At that point, she learned the Youngs still did not have the remains of Eva nor Eva's autopsy report. 

Both Tomaszewski and Rochester Regional Health were offered an opportunity to comment on this story. Neither responded with a comment.

Tomaszewski has provided both the Youngs and Lang with multiple stories about what happened with Eva's remains. He told the Youngs in June that he hadn't delivered the remains to the crematorium and then a short time later said she had been cremated.  

In November, he told Coroner Jeff McIntyre, who was assisting Lang with the case while she was on vacation, that he cremated Eva when he first received the remains; however, Tomaszewski couldn't produce documentation. He later told Lang he cremated the baby in June.

Most people don't understand, Lang said, that most funeral homes don't have the facilities to store the remains of deceased people for long periods of time.

When Lang asked Tomaszewski, who also operates a catering facility, what he did with Eva's body from February until June, Lang said Tomaszewski told her that he kept the body in a cooler in his prep room.

Tomaszewski eventually produced documentation on the cremation of Eva but neither of the Youngs signed it -- which Lang said is required by law.  Instead, the document says the Youngs gave permission over the phone for the cremation. 

Based on their conversation with county officials -- which includes an interview the Sheriff's Office -- the Youngs suspect the box of ashes they received is too light to contain the remains of a once nine-pound baby. So they feel in limbo. Their church -- High Point in Pembroke -- held a service  for Eva but they didn't have her ashes then and they don't know if what they have now are really her ashes.

They would just like answers.

"I think to make it up, he would have to really admit to his wrongs and not just for me, but for a lot of people," Danielle said. "Losing somebody as it is, is something traumatic to have to deal with. And for us to trust you with our dead loved one..."

"It would be nice to at least know what happened because we got three different stories from him," Zach interjected.

"We don't really have answers," Danielle said. "To be honest -- to be honest with anybody -- would be good. The trauma of losing our daughter was bad enough and then to have to worry about her remains -- that wasn't professional."

Previously:

July 25, 2020 - 5:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Michael Tomaszewski, crime, batavia, news, notify.
tomaszewskimugjuly2020.jpg
     Michael Tomaszewski

It isn't just headstones Michael Tomaszewski is suspected of not delivering to cemeteries but bodies, too, including the remains of a stillborn baby.

Chief Deputy Joseph Graff, Sheriff's Office, said that investigators are looking into multiple incidences of mishandling remains at Tomaszewski's facilities on West Main Street Road, Batavia.

Graff wouldn't elaborate other than to confirm the investigation into the remains of a baby and a veteran.

The investigation into remains being stored at the Michael S. Tomaszewski Funeral Home & Cremation Chapel, and possibly at Tomaszewski's adjoining properties, began in January 2019.

That's when Genesee County Coroner Jeff McIntire received a call from the estranged stepdaughter of Peter Vandetta, a 20-year Army veteran, who died in April 2018.

Ronda Grabowski said she wasn't notified of Vandetta's death immediately, but became suspicious after reviewing his death certificate.

She contacted Coroner McIntire and asked him to find out where her stepfather's body was buried.

McIntire found the death certificate and discovered Vandetta's passing was one of his cases, so he tried contacting the Bath (NY) National Cemetary, where Vandetta was supposed to be interred, to find out if he was buried there. McIntyre said he made a few calls, each time being told there was no record of Peter Vandetta at the cemetery.

He followed up with Tomaszewski and McIntire said the funeral director assured him he had taken Vandetta's remains to Bath and he could provide him with the grave coordinates.

After being told by officials at Bath once again that Vandetta was not lain to rest at the national cemetery, McIntire asked Tomaszewski to provide him with the grave coordinates. But, when pressed, Tomaszewski couldn't do it, he said.

At that point, McIntire turned the investigation over to the Genesee County Sheriff's Office.

A short time later, McIntire received a call from an investigator and was told that the remains of an adult male at been located in the garage at the Tomaszewski funeral home.

McIntire ordered the remains delivered to the Monroe County Medical Examiner's office for positive identification. That ME's office did confirm the remains were Vandetta's.

Grabowski told 13WHAM, The Batavian's news partner, that she confronted Tomaszewski about the situation. She said he told her the cousin who was supposed to handle arrangements never contacted him with instructions on how to proceed.

After the ID was confirmed, a cousin apparently authorized the return of the remains of Vandetta to Tomaszewski, who published Vandetta's obituary on Aug. 6, 2019, with services to be held at the funeral home on Aug. 11. Vandetta is now interred at Bath National Cemetary.

Asked for his thoughts on the case, McIntire, himself a military veteran, said, "You know, I can’t even tell you what my thoughts are. I don’t even understand. I don't know. I hope the system works and we’re able to find out what happened and what went wrong."

Graff said there has been an active investigation into the Vandetta case since January 2019, and he also confirmed that the Sheriff's Office has been contacted about the possible inappropriate handling of other human remains. Graff declined to say how many complaints there might be but did confirm that one involves a stillborn baby.  

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman said he has been aware of the investigation but has not been handed a case yet by the Sheriff's Office so couldn't comment further on possible charges.

Chief deputy Graff also said he and other investigators were kept busy fielding calls from more possible victims of Tomaszewski.

On Thursday, the Sheriff's Office announced the arrest of the funeral director on about 200 charges involving the alleged misuse of prepaid funeral arrangement funds and Tomaszewski's possible failure to purchase headstones and gravesites as paid for and promised to clients.

It's alleged that in the initial set of charges, Tomaszewski may have misused about $525,000 in funeral funds he deposited.

Earlier this year, Tomaszewski and his company, Acme Holdings of N.Y. Inc., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. He lists $1,094,346 in assets against $3,242,390 in liabilities.

If convicted, Tomaszewski will certainly be ordered to pay restitution to victims. Restitution cannot be discharged, like other debts, in bankruptcy court.

Previously: Local funeral director charged with stealing money from customers

July 23, 2020 - 6:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Michael Tomaszewski, H.E. Turner, news, batavia.

Press release:

In recent days, Michael S. Tomaszewski Funeral and Cremation Chapel LLC in Batavia has been accused of pre-need theft. During this unfortunate time, we would like to first and foremost like to extend our sincerest condolences to all those affected.

As a family-owned business since 1900, we consider the opportunity to serve the communities of Genesee County an absolute privilege. Our staff works diligently to provide you and your loved ones with the utmost respect and care and are humbled when we are granted the honor of doing so.

With that said, if you or a loved one held pre-need funeral arrangements with Michael S. Tomaszewski Funeral and Cremation Chapel LLC we want to help! We will assist in possible recovery of funds and can help to determine if you and your family qualify for donation of service from our funeral homes.

As lifelong residents of Genesee County, our family of funeral homes will continue to provide the highest standards for our community and we are dedicated to restoring the dignity your family deserves.

Please don’t hesitate to call – (585) 344-4295. Our lines are open 24/7 and as your neighbors, we’re here to support you through this difficult time. lease, allow us to earn your trust.

Sincerely,
Justin D. Calarco-Smith, Joshua J. Smith, Steven L. Johnson, Randy W. McIntire, James F. Smith
The Bohm-Calarco-Smith, H.E. Turner & Co. Inc., and Burdett & Sanford Family

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