GRAY, Ga. (AP) — A former middle Georgia coroner has pleaded guilty to defrauding people of money paid to him in advance to cover funeral and burial expenses.
Jerry Bridges, formerly coroner in Jones County, pleaded guilty in court Thursday to 43 fraud-related counts. WMAZ-TV reports Bridges admitted to Jones County Superior Court Judge Brenda Trammell that he took the money and used it for other purposes.
The charges included 10 misdemeanors and 33 felonies for theft by conversion. Each count represents a person or family that Bridges took $750 to $18,000 from during his time as a funeral home and cemetery owner, for a total of more than $200,000.
Bridges resigned as coroner when he was arrested in June 2019. He sold his funeral home earlier, but had continued to own and operate Cedar Ridge Cemetery in Gray.
By the time he was prosecuted, WMAZ-TV found Bridges faced more than 15 years of complaints and threats from state regulators and even judges.
The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office announced plans to reorganize to strengthen oversight of preneed funeral and burial payments.
Bridges is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 10.