KING GEORGE, Virginia (STPNS) -- Richard Leggitt

For Robert Ray Crouch, the third time was definitely not the charm. Crouch, 47, a troubled and controversial cemetery operator accused of defrauding customers, has faced charges in King George Circuit Court three times.

Appearing in court to face charges in 2010 and 2011, Crouch walked away from the courthouse a free man. In his third court appearance last week, Crouch ran into resourceful and determined King George Commonwealth’s Attorney Keri Gusmann, and left the building in handcuffs headed for the Rappahannock Regional Jail.

“I hope that this conviction can bring some closure to the families that the defendant victimized,” Gusmann declared. “My office is not afraid to work hard and try the tough cases.”

Speaking for Crouch’s victims, Gusmann presented a strong case to the nine women and three men on the jury that heard the trial over two days. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury convicted Crouch on all fourteen charges – nine counts of failure to deposit funds in the proper trust account, and five counts of receiving money by false pretenses.

After the guilty verdicts, the jury recommended the operator of the former Meadow-Brooke Memorial Gardens in King George receive a sentence of twelve months in jail on each of five counts for failure to deposit, and fines of $2,500 on each of the fourteen individual charges.

Crouch could receive a sentence totaling five years in prison and be forced to pay $35,000 in fines, if Judge J. Martin Bass, who presided over the trial, follows the jury’s recommendation. Formal sentencing is scheduled for June 20. Judge Bass ordered a pre-sentencing report, revoked Crouch’s bond, and then King George Sheriff’s deputies escorted him from the courthouse.

“This was a crime that affected our entire community,” Gusmann said. “I believe that the jury spoke loud and clear that stealing will not be tolerated in King George County, especially, stealing from people that are already grieving.”

“My office prides itself on the ability to work well with all law enforcement agencies whether it is the King George Sheriff’s Office, the Virginia State Police or any other agency. In this case, we successfully partnered with the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation,” Gusmann said.

Gusmann reminded jurors how vulnerable people are in their time of bereavement, and presented witnesses who told the tragic stories of a number of Crouch’s victims, including Doris Gohring. Gohring testified about the impact that Crouch’s actions had on her and her family, and her words and tears were felt across the courtroom.

Records show Crouch was in court in Spotsylvania County in 2010, on similar felony charges. He pleaded guilty to obtaining money by false pretenses, and received a three-year sentence. However, the sentence was suspended after Crouch promised to pay $25,000 in restitution, and Crouch went free.

In 2011, Crouch was charged in King George County with grand larceny in connection with allegations that he sold 21 gravemarkers belonging to others. In a bench trial, Judge Bass found Crouch not guilty of those charges. In the latest trial in King George, thanks to the efforts of a determined prosecutor and a discerning King George County jury, Crouch was not so fortunate.