Criminal Justice

West Virginia funeral home accused of filing false death claims

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The owners of a West Virginia funeral home have been accused of filing false death claims with insurers on behalf of 108 people who are still alive.

The accusations are contained in a lawsuit filed Friday against the Galens-Harding funeral home in Poca, West Virginia, and owners Chad and Billie Harding by state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, the Associated Press reports.

The complaint (PDF) alleges that the defendants misappropriated money from consumers who were trying to prepay their funeral expenses and did not register some preneed funeral contracts with the state. It also alleges that the Hardings failed to keep accurate records of all of their transactions and failed to disclose the withdrawal of funds to the Attorney General’s Preneed Funeral Contracts Unit.

“The complaint we filed today alleges egregious conduct on the part of this particular business,” Morrisey said in a press release.

The lawsuit follows an audit of the preneed contracts held by the funeral home by Morrisey’s office last month. The audit found that none of the 108 contract beneficiaries were deceased at the time the funeral home made death claims with insurance companies.

The complaint seeks civil penalties of $5,000 per violation and punitive damages equal to three times the civil penalties.

It also asks the court to order the funeral home to refund all consumer preneed advance payments it has received for funerals not yet performed; turn all of its existing preneed contracts over to the state; and produce any documents or records “pertaining to any prepayment or agreement to prepay for funeral goods or services by any consumer prior to the death of the consumer,” the press release said.

The AP could not reach the Hardings for comment.

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