Funeral director arraigned on new charges - abc27 WHTM

Lancaster County

Funeral director arraigned on new charges

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A Lancaster County funeral home owner jailed for abusing corpses is facing new criminal charges that he stole more than $178,000 from 31 clients over the last four years.

Benjamin M. Siar Jr., 42, of Lancaster, was arraigned Thursday on 75 additional counts, according to Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman.

Stedman said detectives who searched Siar's temporary residence at 1224 St. Joseph Street recovered cremated remains, as well as the business records for the Gundel Funeral Home.

The business records indicated that Siar had been engaging in theft and fraud since May 2008, primarily through preplanned funeral arrangements, Stedman said in a news release Wednesday.

Siar sold life insurance policies to fund the preplanned arrangements and collected the policy premiums from clients, but did not forward the policy application or premiums to the life insurance company, Stedman said.

The additional charges against Siar include 19 second-degree felony counts of deceptive or fraudulent business practices, 21 third-degree felony counts of theft by deception, and 19 third-degree felony counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received.

Second-degree felony convictions are punishable by up to 10 years in prison, while third-degree felonies carry a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment.

Siar was arrested February 1 after authorities said he was paid more than $13,000 by four families for funeral and cremation services that were never provided.

Investigators who searched the Gundel Funeral Home in Conestoga in late January said they found remains - in various stages of decomposition - on a basement table, in a cooling unit, and in a cardboard box in the garage.

According to prosecutors, one of the bodies was that of a 2-year-old Lancaster girl who was the victim of a homicide, while the other remains were those of elderly women who had died since December 20.

Siar initially was charged with four counts each of abuse of a corpse and theft by deception. He was held for court during a preliminary hearing March 20 and remains in the Lancaster County Prison on $250,000 cash bail.

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