Booking photo for Lonnie Nyman (Courtesy: Cache County Jail).
LOGAN — A 47-year-old former funeral home owner has been sentenced for stealing money from hundreds of customers. Lonnie K. Nyman illegally sold pre-paid funeral trust accounts and used the money for his own purchases.
Nyman was sentenced during a virtual hearing in 1st District Court Tuesday afternoon, appearing by web conference from the Utah State Prison. He previously accepted a plea deal, pleading guilty to a pattern of unlawful activity, unlawful dealing with property by fiduciary, and communications fraud, all second-degree felonies.
Multiple victims spoke during the hearing, describing how they felt betrayed by Nyman. Some expressed anger about the plea agreement that would allow Nyman be released from prison. Others hoped that they would be paid back the stolen money.
Defense attorney Cara Tangaro explained that as part of the terms of the plea deal, Nyman would be sentenced to serve one-year in jail but given credit for the time already served. That will allow him to be released on probation and begin paying back at least $352,465 in restitution.
Nyman sold contracts for pre-need funeral plans to at least 105 victims. Instead of placing the funds in trust accounts as required by law, the money was deposited into two bank accounts used for operating expenses. The funds were then used for personal expenses at fast food restaurants, sporting goods stores, as well as payments toward personal credit card balances.
Nyman declined to comment during Tuesday’s sentencing. He is currently in prison serving two consecutive terms of 1-to-15-years after being convicted of trying to have sex with a teenage boy and other crimes.
Utah State Attorney Ryan Holtan said Nyman wasn’t getting a pass from serving time for the fraud crimes. He noted how the defendant had already completed his sentence in the previous cases but had been held in prison since the new charges were filed in January 2020.
Judge Angela Fonnesbeck agreed to follow the plea agreement in hopes that every victim would be made whole financially. She ordered Nyman to be released, sentencing him to one-year in jail with credit for the time already served.
The exact restitution amount could be as much as $527,278, depending on whether some of the victims are compensated by the new owners of the funeral home. A restitution hearing was scheduled for next year, when the exact amount will be determined.
Judge Fonnesbeck told Nyman, he didn’t just steal money from the victims, they had lost their trust in the community and peace of mind. She ordered him to begin paying $1,200 a month, 60-days after being released from prison.
Nyman’s father, Kent Nyman is a co-defendant in the case. The 74-year-old Providence man was a co-owner of the business and is facing similar charges. He also appeared for a brief status hearing Tuesday morning in 1st District Court. His defense attorney said they were continuing to work out a possible plea agreement and asked to appear again in court Jan. 31.
Tangaro had also asked the court to consider reducing the crimes to misdemeanors if Nyman pays back the money. Judge Fonnesbeck said she would consider the request later. She told the defendant, don’t waste this chance to make things right for the victims.