Funeral Scammers Prey on Heartbroken Families - WBAY

Target 2 Consumer Alert

Funeral Scammers Prey on Heartbroken Families


An elaborate funeral scam is taking advantage of families in the middle of heartbreak.

In this Target 2 Consumer Alert, we're featuring a family who fell victim to the scam and have tips on how to protect yourself.

Air Force veteran Clarence Corter thought he put his worries to rest after buying a casket from a company called Celestial Burials.  The ad was placed in the VFW Magazine.

"We ordered a casket with an Air Force insignia on it, because he was in the Air Force and then we ordered one for me, too, because they were less expensive," said Betty Corter, Clarence's wife.

Several years later, Clarence passed away, so Betty called Celestial Burials.

"We called him right away, and then went to the funeral home to let them know the casket would be shipped to them in 24 hours," Betty said.

But that didn't happen.  When Betty's family arrived at the funeral home, Clarence's body was placed on a table--they had no casket for him.

Betty and her children had to immediately pay an additional and unexpected $3500 for a casket.

But some families can't afford that on the spot and some funeral homes agree to front services but risk never being paid back.

Funeral directors urge you to do your research.

"With the advent of the technology we have today, the internet and word of mouth... Has anybody else done business with these people? Are they people of their word? That is the crux of any business," said Joseph Lapinski, Funeral Home Director.

Postal inspectors say the Corter family is among almost 5000 victims who lost more than $2.4 million to the scheme.

Sadly, many were World War II veterans.

The owner of Celestial Burials pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six years in prison.

"At the sentencing, the judge said there was no doubt in his mind that given the opportunity the suspect, Mr. Stabile would do it all over again," said Don Rood, U.S. Postal Inspector.

The National Funeral Directors Association recommends contacting a local funeral home if you're pre-planning, also get guarantees before you sign anything or pay any money.

Click here for a link to the National Funeral Directors Association.


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