CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The owners of three area funeral homes have been accused of bilking an insurance company out of more than $900,000 after selling and cashing in on pre-need funeral arrangements to more than 100 people who weren’t actually dead, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.
Last week, Iowa-based Homesteaders Life Co. filed a complaint in the Southern District of West Virginia against Chad and Billie Harding, of Poca, and their business, Gatens-Harding Funeral Home.
In the 45-page complaint, the insurance company says the Hardings sold and cashed in on pre-need funeral contracts to 111 people from 2005 to 2013 as part of a group life insurance plan.
The problem, however, was that the individuals the funeral home said were dead were still alive, according to the complaint.
Only about 12 percent of the 111 people who signed a pre-need funeral arrangement contract with Gatens-Harding were actually dead as of last week’s filing.
Fourteen people died after the funeral home initially said they did. One customer, who died in May, was reported deceased by the funeral home in November 2012.
For the sale of all the pre-need contracts, agents and employees of Gatens-Harding Funeral Home received $136,719 in commissions, with Chad Harding receiving $7,242…