When Arian Clair died last year, he was supposedly buried at Riverside Cemetery. So what is he doing sitting in a box inside Wanda Leverette's living room?
As part of pre-paid funeral policy, a local crematory reduced Uncle Adrian to ashes. But it charged for a full blown burial instead. "How many other people did they do that to?" asks Wanda. "I'm not the only one, I'm not the first."
The family of 85 year old Alice Dixon shares her frustration. They've been paying premiums to an insurance company since 1992, so when the time comes, Alice would have a proper burial. But those funds are in limbo, because the funeral home, the House of Wills, shut down without notice after 109 years.
When Chief Investigator Carl Monday began looking into pre-paid funeral fraud back in February, he quickly learned that House of Wills is a household name at the State Funeral Board. The Board has fielded fifteen complaints involving prepaid funerals, amounting to some $24,000. The money was supposed to be re-invested with an insurance company, but there's no evidence it ever was. Now, families say they don't have funds to bury their loved ones.
"For this to happen, it's a hurtin' feeling," Anthony Moore told Monday. When Moore's mom entered a nursing home 16 years ago, she took out a pre-paid funeral policy through the House of Wills. The policy grew to over $12,000.
But when the Katherine died back in January of this year, the family discovered House of Wills was closed. And when they called the insurance company to collect the funeral money, the insurance company dropped a bomb shell.
"They said she died in 2012," says son Anthony.
Yes, according to a document on file with the funeral board, someone at House of Wills submitted a claim for a $12,725 check. Two years before Moore's death. Without independently verifying the request, the insurance company sent the check to a woman named Doris Allen.
"Have you ever met Doris Allen?" Monday asked Anthony. "Never, our families don't know her. No one has ever met this person."
Allen's address listed on the document doesn't even exist. Patricia Wills, who last operated House of Wills, is said to be living in Florida and couldn't be found.
Evidence involving Katherine Moore's case, and the other pre-paid funeral victims, is now in the hands of the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor.
"How can you do this with dignity and feel good about yourself?" asks one victim's relative. "I don't understand."
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