Oilman Charged In Cemetery Scandal To Stay In Jail

Sunday, July 1st 2007, 5:11 pm
By: News On 6

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) _ An Oklahoma oilman who is accused in a $90 million cemetery trust fund scandal will remain jailed in Memphis until at least August.

Clayton Smart, 67, who also faces criminal charges in Michigan, waived extradition proceedings in late May and was taken to Tennessee to face criminal charges.

Smart has been in jail without bond since he surrendered to authorities April 26 in eastern Oklahoma, where he lives.

Smart has tried to hire a Memphis lawyer since his May 25 extradition to the Shelby County Jail, but his assets were frozen in a state civil suit to recover missing money.

Defense attorneys Leslie Ballin and Randall Fishman told Criminal Court Judge W. Otis Higgs Jr. that they would ask the Shelby County Chancery Court to release funds to cover their fees. But Fishman said at a hearing Friday that the attorneys never approached the court to unfreeze the funds.

``Until and unless somebody from Mr. Smart's camp comes and sits down with us so we can get a better understanding than we have right now, and have somebody who's going to pay us, we're not in a position to do much of anything,'' he said.

Smart bought 28 cemeteries in Michigan and three in Tennessee in 2004, allowing him to gain control over their trust funds for future burials and other costs. Before buying the cemeteries, Smart owned several oil and gas businesses in Oklahoma.

Smart is charged with 39 felonies in Michigan, where prosecutors allege $70 million is missing from cemetery trust funds Smart's companies controlled. In Tennessee, prosecutors allege that $20 million in cemetery trust funds has been lost or stolen.

Related Stories:

1/10/2007 Tennessee Court Freezes Assets Of Cemetery Company

1/21/2007 Officials Say Funeral Home Owners Tried To Access Frozen Funds

1/26/2007 Michigan Freezes Oklahoma Attorney's Assets In Cemetery Investigation

5/17/2007 Muskogee Lawyer Surrenders In Tennessee

5/18/2007 Michigan Governor Seeks Extradition Of Okmulgee Oilman

5/26/2007 Businesses In Cemetery Scandal Will Offer Prepaid Funerals Again