Colorado Funeral Home Owners Indicted for COVID Relief Fraud and Corpse Abuse

Funeral home owners charged with COVID-19 relief fraud and mishandling of 190 decaying bodies, causing anguish for grieving families.

Mahnoor Jehangir
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Colorado Funeral Home Owners Indicted for COVID Relief Fraud and Corpse Abuse

Colorado Funeral Home Owners Indicted for COVID Relief Fraud and Corpse Abuse

Jon and Carie Hallford, the owners of the Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose, Colorado, have been indicted on federal charges for allegedly misusing nearly $900,000 in COVID-19 pandemic relief funds and improperly storing 190 sets of human remains at their facility. The indictment, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, accuses the couple of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

According to the indictment, the Hallfords fraudulently obtained three loans totaling $882,300 from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) between March 2020 and October 2021. They allegedly spent the relief funds on personal expenses, including vacations, cosmetic surgery, jewelry, cryptocurrency, and their child's tuition, instead of using the money to support their funeral home during the pandemic.

The federal charges come after the Hallfords were previously arrested in November 2022 when authorities discovered 190 decaying bodies at their funeral home, a scene described as 'horrific' by investigators. The couple is also facing hundreds of state criminal counts for corpse abuse, money laundering, theft, and forgery.

Why this matters: The case highlights the potential for fraud and abuse in government assistance programs during times of crisis, as well as the importance of proper oversight and regulation in the funeral industry. The alleged actions of the Hallfords have not only violated the trust of their clients but also caused immense distress to the families of the deceased.

The indictment further alleges that the Hallfords collected over $130,000 from grieving families for cremation and burial services they never provided. In some instances, they gave families dry concrete mix instead of cremated ashes and buried the wrong bodies on two occasions.

If convicted on the federal charges, the Hallfords could face up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000. They are also facing the possibility of paying restitution to the victims and supervised release.

The Return to Nature Funeral Home is set to be demolished by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to safely remove the residual medical and biological materials found in the building. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation has stated that they are confident any necessary evidence has been collected from the premises, and they have no involvement in the demolition process.

The case has caused anguish for the families who entrusted their loved ones to the Hallfords, only to learn that the remains they received were not what they expected. "The Hallfords' alleged lies, money laundering, forgery, and manipulation over the past four years have devastated hundreds of grieving families," said United States Attorney Cole Finegan in a statement.

Key Takeaways

  • Owners of Colorado funeral home indicted for $900K COVID-19 relief fraud
  • Misused funds on personal expenses, failed to provide cremation/burial services
  • 190 decaying bodies found at their facility, facing state criminal charges
  • Potential 20-year prison sentence and $250K fines for federal charges
  • Funeral home to be demolished to remove biohazardous materials