Homeowners of Colorado funeral house the place 190 decaying our bodies have been discovered at the moment are being charged with misspending $900,000 in COVID reduction funds


A pair who owned a Colorado funeral house the place authorities final yr found 190 decaying our bodies have been indicted on federal fees that they misspent practically $900,000 in pandemic reduction funds on holidays, beauty surgical procedure, jewellery and different private bills, based on courtroom paperwork unsealed Monday.

The indictment reaffirms accusations from state prosecutors that Jon and Carie Hallford gave households dry concrete as an alternative of cremated ashes and alleges the couple buried the flawed physique on two events.

The couple additionally collected greater than $130,000 from households for cremations and burial providers they by no means supplied, the indictment mentioned.

The 15 fees introduced by the federal grand jury are along with greater than 200 prison counts already pending towards the Hallfords in Colorado state courtroom for corpse abuse, cash laundering, theft and forgery.

The federal offenses carry potential penalties of 20 years in jail and $250,000 in fines, the indictment mentioned.

On Monday, the house owners of the Return to Nature Funeral Dwelling in Colorado Springs entered a federal courtroom sure in shackles as they made an preliminary look earlier than U.S. Justice of the Peace Decide Scott Varholak.

Assistant U.S. Lawyer Tim Neff argued the couple have been a flight threat, after they allegedly fled to Oklahoma final October when the decaying our bodies have been first found and earlier than their arrest on state fees on Nov. 8.

“They merely evaporated from the group,” Neff mentioned.

The decide didn’t instantly determine if the couple must be launched pending trial. He set an arraignment listening to for Thursday.

Carie Hallford’s legal professional, Chaz Melihercik, mentioned he would argue towards detention on the subsequent listening to. Jon Hallford’s public defender, Kilie Latendresse, instructed the decide that he had been following his bond situations within the state case and that detention was pointless.

The brand new fees and accusations triggered extra anguish for households who despatched their family members to the funeral house.

Each new revelation concerning the case is a jolt to Tanya Wilson, who employed Return to Nature to cremate her mom’s stays. Wilson unfold the ashes with household in Hawaii. After the grim discovery, Wilson was instructed these ashes weren’t really her mom, whose physique has since been recognized among the many 190 decaying our bodies.

Lots of of members of the family, like Wilson, had thought they put their liked one’s to relaxation, or clutched their ashes shut, solely to have that therapeutic torn away.

“I actually really feel like I’ve whiplash, and I can’t maintain onto one emotion lengthy sufficient to have the ability to course of it,” Wilson mentioned over the cellphone.

Earlier than the brand new indictment was unsealed, public data confirmed the Hallfords had been suffering from debt — dealing with evictions and lawsuits for unpaid cremations at the same time as they spent lavishly on themselves.

The indictment alleges the couple used $882,300 in pandemic reduction funds to purchase objects that additionally included a automobile, dinners, tuition for his or her little one and cryptocurrency. The fraud concerned three loans obtained between March 2020 and October 2021, authorities mentioned.

Beforehand launched courtroom paperwork from the state abuse of corpse case reveal extra particulars about what they have been spending cash on.

They purchased a GMC Yukon and an Infiniti that collectively have been value over $120,000 — sufficient to cowl cremation prices twice over for all the our bodies discovered of their enterprise’ facility final October, based on earlier courtroom testimony from FBI Agent Andrew Cohen.

“That’s simply completely disgusting for a scarcity of a greater time period, simply studying about all the cash that that they had,” mentioned Wilson. “Simply the value of the 2 automobiles that he purchased … it was sufficient to simply do proper by these households.”

The Hallfords additionally paid for journeys to California, Florida and Las Vegas, in addition to $31,000 in cryptocurrency, laser physique sculpting and procuring at luxurious retailers like Gucci and Tiffany & Co., based on courtroom paperwork.

The couple haven’t but entered pleas to the state’s abuse of corpse fees.

The Hallfords left of their wake a path of unpaid payments, disgruntled landlords and unsettled enterprise disputes.

The couple as soon as claimed to a former landlord that they might settle their hire after they have been paid for work that they had completed for the Federal Emergency Administration Company through the COVID-19 pandemic. The enterprise’ web site featured logos for FEMA and the Division of Protection.

FEMA has mentioned they didn’t have any contracts with the funeral house. A protection division database search additionally confirmed no contracts with Return to Nature.

The corporate didn’t pay greater than $5,000 in 2022 property taxes at one in all its places, public data present. Then final yr, the enterprise was slapped with a $21,000 judgement for not paying for “a pair hundred cremations,” based on public data and legal professional Lisa Epps with Wilbert Funeral Providers crematory.

The Hallfords’ alleged lies, cash laundering, forgery and manipulation over the previous 4 years devastated a whole lot of grieving members of the family.

The 190 our bodies have been found final yr in a bug-infested storage constructing within the small city of Penrose, about two hours south of Denver. Among the stays had languished since 2019.

An investigation by The Related Press discovered that the Hallfords doubtless despatched pretend ashes and fabricated cremation data to households who did enterprise with them. They seem to have written on loss of life certificates given to households, together with ashes, that the cremations have been carried out by Wilbert Funeral Providers, which denied performing them for the funeral house at the moment.

Because the decomposing our bodies have been recognized, households realized that the ashes they’d obtained couldn’t have been the stays of their family members. Court docket paperwork allege a minimum of some have been dry concrete.

Way back to 2020, there have been issues raised concerning the enterprise’s improper storage of our bodies. However there was no follow-up by regulators, letting the gathering of our bodies develop to almost 200 over the next three years.

Colorado has a few of weakest funeral house rules within the nation. Funeral house operators within the state don’t need to graduate highschool, not to mention research mortuary science or move an examination.

The Hallfords case and others in recent times spurred Colorado lawmakers to introduce laws to strengthen oversight with guidelines which might be in step with or exceed these in different states. These payments are at the moment shifting via the state Legislature.

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