Thousands fall victim to casket scam

Funeral directors warn consumers to do their research

Clarence Corter thought he put his funeral worries to rest after buying a casket from a company called "Celestial Burials."  The 30-year veteran found an advertisement for the casket in the VFW Magazine.

"We ordered a casket with an Air Force insignia on it, and then we ordered one for me too because they were less expensive," said Betty Corter, Clarence's wife.

Several years after the purchase, Clarence passed away.  Betty called "Celestial Burials."

"We called the funeral home to let them know the casket would be shipped to them in 24 hours," said Betty.

But that didn't happen.  When Betty's family arrived at the funeral home, they were surprised at what they found.

"We were going to the viewing, when we got the funeral home he was lying on a table," said Betty.

She and her children had to immediately pay an additional and unexpected $3,500 for a casket.  But some families can't afford to buy a casket on the spot.  Some funeral homes do agree to front services, but they risk never being paid back.

Funeral directors say do your research.

"With the advent of the technology we have today, the Internet and word of mouth, has anybody else done business with these people are they people of their word. That is the crux of any business," said funeral director, Joseph Lapinski.

Postal Inspectors say the Corter family is among almost five thousand victims who lost more than $2.4 million to the scheme.  Sadly, many were World War II veterans.

"At the sentencing, the judge said there was no doubt in his mind that given the opportunity the suspect would do it all over again," said Don Rood, a US Postal Inspector.

Joe Stabile, the owner of Celestial Burials, pleaded guilty to charges including conspiracy, mail fraud and making false statements on tax returns. He was sentenced to six years in federal prison.

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