May 31, 2007
Liberty, Mo. The owner of a Smithville business who was charged with taking several thousand dollars from consumers for cemetery headstones he did not deliver must repay almost $20,000 to his customers. Larry Keith Lawhon (DOB - 10/8/51) pleaded guilty on Wednesday (May 30) to 10 counts of unlawful merchandising practices and three counts of stealing by deceit that were prosecuted by Attorney General Jay Nixon and Clay County Prosecuting Attorney Dan White.
The court sentenced Lawhon to 18 months on each of the counts but suspended execution of the sentence, with the condition on his probation that he make full restitution totaling $19,767 to consumers who had not yet received refunds or the headstones for which they paid. Earlier this month, the Clay County Circuit Court placed Lawhon on five years’ probation after a jury found him guilty of related charges of nine counts of stealing by deceit. Lawhon was ordered to pay more than $12,000 in consumer restitution as part of that sentencing.
“Mr. Lawhon took advantage of consumers who often were dealing with the loss of a loved one,” Nixon said. “Many of his victims were forced to incur even more expense because they had to pay for headstones from other businesses. This sentence requiring him to pay restitution helps make his victims whole.”
Nixon first charged Lawhon in August 2005 as part of “Operation Grave Concerns,” a crackdown on fraud in the bereavement industry that resulted in criminal charges and civil lawsuits being filed against funeral home owners, cemetery operators and headstone businesses across the state.