Chicago funeral homes are raking it in amid the city's largely ignored murder epidemic, reports Fox News.
Taking advantage of a taxpayer-funded scheme which guarantees up to $7,500 in funeral expenses for the families of homicide victims, several funeral directors have been accused of inflating prices or charging families for services which were never performed.
“Every funeral home in the state knows that victims get $7,500 for a funeral and it’s their goal to charge the entire amount because it’s easy money,” Susan Johnson, executive director of Chicago Survivors, told Fox News.
Johnson, whose organization helps people who have lost loved ones to homicide, claims some zero in on people receiving money from the Illinois Crime Victim’s Compensation fund.
The state – along with the federal government – provides eligible victims of violent crime with up to $27,000 in financial assistance for out-of-pocket expenses. The families of murder victims get $7,500 for funeral costs.
According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost of a funeral for an adult is between $7,000 and $8,300. The Federal Trade Commission puts the figure slightly higher at around $10,000. -Fox News
The $7,500 from the Crime Victim's Compensation Fund is intended to be applied towards a casket, transportation, staff salaries and other memorialization costs.
In one case, Johnson - a former pastor - claims a funeral home held a body "hostage" because the family couldn't not produce additional funds after being quoted one price but charged another.
In one particularly shocking case, a 45-year-old woman’s body had been partially burned. The funeral home failed to pick up her remains in time for the service. Instead, they put an empty casket in front of the church and didn’t tell the family. When the victim’s 19-year-old son demanded to see his mother’s body, the funeral director eventually produced a second casket. When it was opened, mourners were horrified that the mortician failed to dress the body as they claimed they had. The last image the son had of his murdered mother was a charred and mangled mess. -Fox News
In May, we reported on a western Illinois coroner who took heat over how he handles the remains of those whose loved ones can't afford a proper burial: after signing over their rights to the body, he cremates the deceased and keeps the ashes until the family pays him $1,000 - at which point he'll release the death certificate. Of the $1,000, $800 goes to a funeral home and $200 to the crematory.
If a family can't pay, the ashes of their loved one are mixed with others and buried in an unmarked grave. Meanwhile, if the death certificate is needed for some purpose (life insurance, settling the estate, etc.), the coroner, James Keller, will arrange for the county to recoup its costs from any proceeds.
Last June, President Trump sent in 20 agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to Chicago - tasked with helping solve gun crimes and hunting down gun traffickers in the city.
If Chicago doesn't fix the horrible "carnage" going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 25, 2017
Crime and killings in Chicago have reached such epidemic proportions that I am sending in Federal help. 1714 shootings in Chicago this year!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 30, 2017
And while murders in Chicago are down year-to-date, standing at 381, local funeral homes don't seem to be hurting.
Rooting out funeral fraud, by comparison, is not something on the radar of authorities.
“It’s not a high priority,” Johnson said, adding that she’s been privately told there are simply not enough resources at the national, state or local level to go after those trying to bilk the system.
“That’s the excuse of every government agency, isn’t it?” Joshua Solcum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, told Fox News.
Solcum, who describes his non-profit organization as the “Consumer Reports magazine of funerals,” says he too has heard horror stories of funeral homes taking advantage of people. -Fox News
"(The families) have an ethical right to be angry," said Solcum. "It’s one of the worst ways to victimize people."