Former Owner Of Cherokee Memory Gardens Arrested Again On Felony Charges Of Theft By Deception

According to Centre Police Chief Kirk Blankenship, the former owner of Cherokee Memory Gardens was arrested again on Thursday on Felony charges of Theft by Deception involving cases where he did knowingly obtain by deception control over checks, currency or the property of a named individuals with the intent to deprive the owner of said property in violation of Section 13A-8-3 of the Code of Alabama.

64 year old Centre resident John Charles Usry was booked in at the Cherokee County Detention Center shortly after 10:00 a.m. Thursday morning for two counts of Theft by Deception 2nd Degree and one count Theft by Deception 1st Degree. Usry was released just after 1:00 after posting a $10,000 bond.

Usry was arrested back on July 10 after being indicted by a Cherokee County Grand Jury on a Felony charge of Theft by Deception 1st Degree.

According to Chief Investigator Randy Mayorga with the Centre Police Department there are more than 30 cases pending against Usry involving the sale of preneed burial plots, markers and the opening and closing of grave-sites. Mayorga said that two of the cases pending involve sales on two separate occasions that took place after Cherokee Memory Gardens was already closed.

Last month WEIS Radio News spoke with a representative with the State Preneed Department and she told us those who purchased Preneed Funerals, vaults, markers or any other merchandise not yet utilized will lose their money. It seems there are more than a half million dollars in preneed merchandise and services sold that is unfunded. Those who have purchased space in the Mausoleum should have their paper work for that and will have it as it is. The Mausoleum is unfinished and the officials with the State Insurance Department have concerns about proper maintenance of the facility. Cherokee Memory Gardens has $3000 in the Merchandise and Service Trust Fund with the State and $30,000 in the Endowment Care Trust Fund.

Johnny Usry, Mary Usry, Cherokee Memory Garden, nor anyone associated with the operation were licensed with the State of Alabama Insurance Department to sell Preneed Funeral Arrangements. According to the Department, the Usry’s received a substantial fine for selling Preneed arrangements without proper licensing by the State.

Mayorga says that while most cases probably will not meet the statute of limitations it is still vitally important that those who feel they have been victimized by Memory Gardens  file a police report with the City of Centre. Mayorga did say that additional arrests are expected involving pending cases.

Consumer information is available  on a website, It is www.aldoi.gov/preneed then follow the links to the Consumer Assistant Tab.

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