Funeral director waives hearing on new theft, fraud charges - abc27 WHTM

Funeral director waives hearing on new theft, fraud charges

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Benjamin Siar Jr. (file photo) Benjamin Siar Jr. (file photo)

A Lancaster County funeral director charged with abusing corpses and stealing from clients will face additional felony counts of theft and fraud when the case against him is prosecuted in county court.

Benjamin M. Siar Jr., 42, of Lancaster, waived a preliminary hearing Wednesday before District Judge Janice Jimenez.

By waiving the hearing, Siar allowed eight additional criminal counts to proceed without contest.

A formal arraignment was scheduled for September 27.

Siar, the former owner of the Gundel Funeral Homes in Lancaster and Conestoga, was charged last month with three felony counts each of theft by deception and fraudulent business practices, and one felony count each of attempted theft and attempted fraud, bringing to 94 the total counts against him.

According to the criminal complaint, cremated remains of three people were found in February and March at the Gundel Funeral Home in Conestoga and at Siar's temporary home on St. Joseph Street, where he had moved property and business records after his eviction from the Gundel Funeral Home in Lancaster.

The remains were those of people who had made preplanned funeral arrangements with Gundel Funeral Home and had died between August 24 and November 18.

At each funeral service, Siar presented families with an urn purported to contain the cremated remains of their loved ones, but in each instance the deceased had not yet been cremated, according to the complaint.

Siar was paid a total of nearly $8,000 for the three funeral services.

In one case, Gundel Funeral Home allegedly billed a client's nursing home trust account more than $2,500, even though the funeral expenses had already been paid by their life insurance company.

According to the charging documents, Siar told the client's family that he knew the funeral had been paid, but sent the bill anyway with the intention of giving the money to the family.

Siar was arrested February 1 after authorities said he was paid more than $13,000 by four other 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 an inoperable 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 of abusing corpses and six counts of theft by deception.

In April, he was arraigned on 76 additional counts, including 40 counts of theft and 19 counts of fraud.

At the time, authorities said business records seized from Gundel Funeral Home indicated Siar had stolen more than $178,000 from 31 clients over the last four years.


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