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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Funeral-home boss gets 1-year jail term

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

John Dooley, right, ex-CEO for a group of funeral homes and cemeteries, has already served more than 600 days in jail, said his attorney, John Schum, left.

BRUCE ASATO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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The former chief executive of RightStar Hawaii Management, a group of funeral homes and cemeteries, was sentenced yesterday to five years' probation and one year of jail time for fraud charges in a multimillion-dollar case.

John Dooley was charged with stealing $50,939 from 28 RightStar customers and is named in a $30 million civil fraud suit filed by the state. Dooley will also have to pay nearly $51,000 in restitution.

He entered a no-contest plea in October in Circuit Court before Judge Virginia Crandall, who sentenced him yesterday.

Dooley had sought a deferred acceptance of a guilty plea, but the court denied his request. If it had been approved, his record would have been wiped clean of the felony conviction after a period of time as long as he stayed out of trouble.

The time he spent in prison counts toward his sentence and he was expected to be released yesterday, having served more than 600 days in jail, said his lawyer, John Schum.

"Mr. Dooley feels horrible about everything that's happened ," Schum said yesterday. "As he said in court today, it was never his intension to steal money from people and it was always his plan to build a conglomeration of cemeteries and funeral homes here, and that failed miserably. He feels responsible for that failure."

Schum said Dooley has offered to cooperate with the state attorney general's office on the civil case.

Dooley and a group of associates, including former Gov. John Waihee, were sued by the state attorney general in 2004 for allegedly conspiring to improperly remove as much as $30 million from funeral trust accounts held for 50,000 customers.

RightStar owns Valley of the Temples Memorial Park and Diamond Head Mortuary on O'ahu, Maui Memorial Park, and Homelani and Kona Memorial Parks on the Big Island. RightStar also owns several companies that sell and administer pre-need funeral plans, including the 50th State Funeral Plan.

Dooley ran the RightStar goup of companies from 2001 to 2004, when a foreclosure suit put the firms into a court-supervised receivership that continues today.

Since RightStar went into receivership, state officials have consistently said that all outstanding RightStar pre-need contracts will be honored.

A court-ordered auction of the RightStar assets was canceled last year after no bidders came forth who were willing to pay the minimum asking price of $25 million.

Since then, a new management team, overseen by court-appointed receiver Marie Milks, has been operating RightStar for the court until a new auction can be scheduled.