Former South Hadley funeral director ordered to pay nearly $500,000 in restitution


  • William Ryder, former owner and director of the now-closed Ryder Funeral Home in South Hadley, right, is handcuffed and led out of a courtroom at Hampshire Superior Court Nov. 18 after pleading guilty to embezzling more than $400,000 in prepaid funeral arrangements from at least 74 clients between 2001 and 2014. Ryder pleaded guilty to 69 counts of larceny greater than $250, five charges of improper disposition of a human body and a charge of life insurance fraud.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

NORTHAMPTON — A former South Hadley funeral director who admitted to embezzling more than $400,000 in prepaid funeral arrangements must pay nearly $500,000 in restitution.

William W. Ryder, 55, has been ordered to pay $471,446 in consumer restitution, according to a judgment entered in Hampshire Superior Court Thursday morning. Ryder is currently serving a jail sentence for his role in the case.

Nearly $302,000 of Ryder’s money is being held by the commonwealth in a trust for the settlement, according to court documents. The funds come from the sale of his former funeral home and his home.

“We expect all funeral service providers to operate with respect for the deceased and their families,” Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement. “It is intolerable that any provider would take advantage of the trust placed in them by grieving families.”

As part of the judgment, Ryder is permanently prohibited from participating in any business involving embalming, funeral directing, or funeral services. He is also permanently barred from participating in the funeral business.

With the final judgment, Ryder was ordered to immediately pay $169,254.11 to the commonwealth, according to court documents. The total restitution amount will be placed in a consumer relief fund to be established, maintained and distributed under the attorney general’s sole discretion.

In November 2016, Ryder pleaded guilty in Hampshire Superior Court to 69 counts of larceny greater than $250 and was sentenced to jail. He also pleaded guilty to five charges of improper disposition of a human body and one charge of life insurance fraud.

The guilty plea came two and a half years after authorities launched an investigation into its business affairs. The Ryder Funeral Home was shut down in May 2014 by local and state officials after regulators found several human bodies improperly stored and in various states of decomposition. Investigators were tipped off to the decomposing bodies by a former employee who worked as an embalmer. An investigation into the handling of clients’ money ensued.

Ryder operated the South Hadley funeral home in and between 2001 and 2014, and he embezzled about $431,625 from 69 clients. He took money from clients as part of pre-need deposits for future funeral services. According to prosecutors, Ryder deposited funds from the prepaid funeral arrangements directly into his own business account and used them for his own personal and professional benefit.

The Ryder Funeral Home had operated in the Falls section of South Hadley since the 1950s and had been founded by Ryder’s parents, the late Ruth E. and Myron W. Ryder Jr.

At the time of his plea, First Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Steven Gagne told the court the attorney general’s office issued injunctions against Ryder and froze over $200,000 of his assets.

Ryder is currently serving a 2-year sentence at the Hampshire County Jail and House of Correction on a larceny charge with one of those years stayed during a five-year probation period. He also received six months of jail time on each of the improper disposition charges, time to be served concurrently with the year in jail.

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.