The goal of the Mayor’s blog is to provide our community with information that is relevant and timely about our city. As you know, much of what is happening in Melrose is positive, but unfortunately as Mayor I am called upon to provide information about negative events as they occur. This is one such time. Today, a former employee of Wyoming Cemetery was arraigned in Middlesex Superior Court on criminal charges. I am attaching two statements, one from Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan and one from myself.
It is our goal to seek justice for the citizens of Melrose.
Statement from Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan and Melrose Chief of Police Michael Lyle have announced that John Hughes, 70, of Melrose, was arraigned today in Middlesex Superior Court on larceny charges in connection with an alleged scheme to sell unused cemetery burial plots, owned by the City of Melrose, to unsuspecting buyers. Hughes was charged with five counts of larceny over $250 and receiving outside compensation by a municipal employee.
Clerk Magistrate Michael Sullivan released the defendant on personal recognizance. The next scheduled hearing in this case is January 9, 2017.
“As a municipal employee, the defendant was tasked with overseeing the care and maintenance of a cemetery owned by the city of Melrose,” said District Attorney Ryan. “Instead, the defendant allegedly used his position to not only defraud those looking for burial plots, but also the city that had placed its trust in the defendant.”
“These charges are extremely disturbing, as this suspect was the Superintendent of Wyoming Cemetery and allegedly plotted to take advantage of vulnerable residents during a sensitive time in their lives,” Melrose Police Chief Michael Lyle said. “I would like to commend the work of the Melrose Police Department Detectives for their dedication and diligence during this case.”
The defendant was appointed Cemetery Administrator of the Wyoming Cemetery in Melrose in 2007. Beginning in 2011 the defendant allegedly began telling individuals looking to buy burial plots for later use, that they could purchase previously sold burial plots within the cemetery at discounted rates. The defendant then allegedly set up straw sellers for individuals to pay for the burial plots and the defendant would then split the funds with the straw sellers, none of whom owned the plots that were sold. The defendant is alleged to have sold 13 burial plots, thereby diverting funds from the City of Melrose, and netting approximately $75,000.
This case was investigated by the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office and the Melrose Police Department with the cooperation of the City of Melrose.
These charges are allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The prosecutors assigned to this case are Assistant District Attorney Doug Cannon and Assistant District Attorney Cyrus Chung.
Statement from Mayor Robert J. Dolan
I was shocked and saddened when I learned that the former superintendent of Wyoming Cemetery had been accused of betraying the trust of the citizens of Melrose.
The day I was advised that this individual was potentially engaging in criminal activity, I immediately called Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan. From that moment an investigation commenced, with which we fully cooperated. I would like to commend District Attorney Ryan and her staff as well as the Melrose Police Department for their thoroughness and professionalism in conducting this investigation as we seek justice for the citizens of Melrose.
Let me be clear that these actions were conducted outside of any policy or procedure of the Wyoming Cemetery and the City Treasury.
As Mayor, I want to assure the citizens of Melrose that these acts were allegedly committed by a rogue individual without any funds ever passing through the City’s treasury or auditing departments.
I also want to commend my staff and the members of the Wyoming Cemetery Committee for their tireless efforts to preserve the integrity of the cemetery, which is the most sacred land in the City. We have personally reached out to the families who were impacted by these alleged crimes. This is a very difficult time for these affected families and for all of us.
The individual responsible has now been charged and I am confident that justice will be served for the citizens of Melrose.