A recent news story out of South Salt Lake, Utah has resulted in a mortuary being shut down, and people all around the country newly aware of their vulnerability to funeral home and cremation fraud. According to the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing, the Carver Mortuary Service had its license immediately suspended after allegations of jewelry theft, mixing ashes, unrefrigerated bodies, and unsanitary conditions. Authorities said that the mortuary operations “represent an immediate and significant danger to the public health, safety, and welfare,” to say nothing of the pain and grief that revelations of their negligence and fraud caused to the families of the deceased.
Like many mortuaries, the Carver Mortuary Service is a licensed funeral home offering cremation services, as well as embalming and autopsies. According to former employees who acted as witnesses, it was common for employees to remove gold and other precious metals from human remains, as well as to “keep jewelry, watches, rings and other personal property, and not deliver these items to the decedent’s family.” Sometimes employees would go home wearing these items.
Other reported issues included an embalming room that was “rarely cleaned,” tools and appliances that were “not thoroughly cleansed,” embalming tables that would not be cleaned between bodies, and shoddy tracking of bodies and times of cremation. When the refrigerator room for bodies was overfilled, “unembalmed bodies were left outside of the refrigeration room for periods of a day or more.” Many of the mortuary’s employees were unlicensed, including those who sewed bodies up after autopsy.
Fetal remains and infants were often placed in the cremation chamber with adult bodies and the ashes would be mixed, while at other times the cremation chamber would not be completely emptied before another body would be cremated. These practices meant that remains could not be properly identified. The report stated that, “Deceased persons were cremated without identification or without records documenting the identity of the deceased or paperwork necessary to determine whether the cremation had been authorized.”
The mortuary in Utah is an example of cremation fraud at its very worst, and represents a true nightmare scenario for anybody contemplating funeral or cremation services for a loved one. If you suspect that your deceased relative’s remains have been robbed of jewelry or treated disrespectfully, you may be entitled to compensation for your pain. Contact the attorneys at Bochetto & Lentz to learn more about your rights when facing cremation fraud and how we can help.