Bayview Crematory owner admits tax evasion as part of court plea

BRENTWOOD, N.H. ? The owner of a Seabrook crematorium closed by the state after unidentified bodies were found abandoned inside ovens and a broken refrigerator pleaded guilty Thursday to tax evasion charges stemming from the scandal.Derek Wallace, 36, of Salisbury, Mass., on Thursday agreed to plead guilty to four felony counts of tax evasion. In exchange, prosecutors dismissed five other criminal counts that alleged Wallace accepted money for illegal cremations at Bayview Crematory.During a protracted trial that involved Wallace and others who worked at the crematory, the son of a prominent Lynn doctor and former Massachusetts medical examiner was convicted of signing cremation certificates without viewing the bodies asked a judge to toss out his guilty verdict and order a new trial.Dr. Putnam Breed, 68, of Hampton Falls, son of the late Lynn physician Robert Breed, was accused of taking money for signing thousands of certificates for the Bayview Crematory. A jury found him guilty on nine counts of fraudulent handling of official documents and four counts of theft.Breed told police that former Bayview owner Derek Wallace of Salisbury, Mass., hired him to inspect bodies and issue the cremation certificates. At trial, Breed’s lawyer Philip Utter asserted his client had committed no crimes because there were no state rules regarding cremation certificates. Breed has appealed the verdict.Prosecutors presented evidence at trial that showed Breed was paid $35 apiece to sign thousands of cremation certificates for Bayview. The crematorium handled approximately 2,000 bodies annually from funeral homes in Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire. It had been operating for six years without registering with or being inspected by the state.According to the latest justice deal affirmed Thursday, Wallace will pay $240,000 in back taxes and faces up to 3 years in prison.Three others, including Breed and Wallace’s mother and stepfather, have already been convicted or pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the crematorium raid.Authorities searching Bayview Crematory in February 2005 found records in disarray, a dozen sets of remains without identification, two bodies in the same oven and a decomposing body in a broken refrigeration unit. Those discoveries, and revelations about the lack of regulation of New Hampshire crematories, prompted lawmakers to pass stricter rules on licensing and inspection.Rockingham County attorney Jim Reams said Wallace’s plea deal clears the way for families whose relatives were cremated at Bayview to move forward with their civil suits.”The guilty pleas in this case and the results in the other Bayview-related cases have accomplished my goals in pursuing this prosecution: felony convictions, the permanent closing of Bayview Crematory, people are going to jail,” Reams said in a statement. “The state of New Hampshire has recovered almost $500,000 in taxes, fines and penalties and the state’s lax laws regulating crematories have been strengthened.”

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