LANCASTER – A former apprentice embalmer accused of taking gold crowns from human remains at a Lancaster funeral home pleaded no contest and was immediately sentenced Tuesday, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.
Pete Jacob Lara, 39, pleaded to seven felony counts – one count each of possession of methamphetamine and removal or possession of dental gold from human remains, and five counts of commercial burglary.
Lara was immediately sentenced to seven years in state prison to be served in local custody.
He was also ordered to pay $3,000 in restitution to the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization that provides programs and services to military veterans wounded in combat as they transition to civilian life.
Lara is a former employee of Halley-Olsen-Murphy Funeral Home in Lancaster. While working as an apprentice embalmer, Lara took gold crowns from bodies and other items including a cremation urn box and medallions used to decorate urn boxes worth more than $1,000, according to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors said Lara went on to pawn the stolen goods at local pawn shops and jewelry exchanges.
Deputies began investigating Lara when a review of local pawn slips revealed that Lara had pawned gold fillings at several area locations over the course of several months, sheriff’s officials said. Deputies arrested Lara on October 28 at Halley-Olsen-Murphy Funeral Home and found methamphetamine and several gold fillings in Lara’s pocket, officials said. Authorities also served a search warrant at Lara’s residence, where more fillings were discovered, officials said. Lara was originally charged with 26 felony counts. Lara pleaded no contest to seven felonies Tuesday, and the remaining counts were dropped as part of his plea agreement. The case was investigated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
(Information via the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and Lancaster Sheriff’s Station.)
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