Washington County Funeral Fraud Prompts Education Efforts For Area Seniors
A Washington County funeral director is expected in court April 21, charged with stealing $340,000 from elderly clients.
A criminal complaint against Lynn Taucher of the Taucher Funeral Home in Burgettstown alleges theft of amounts ranging from $600 to $11,000 from 49 individuals.
Pennsylvania law requires that money pre-paid for funerals go into a special, individual escrow account.
“Instead, Taucher mixed them up with other funds," Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. "These co-mingled funds were then misused over several years. They were used for business expenses and, believe it or not, the money from these seniors was actually used for gambling."
Shapiro said his office believes there are more victims and has urged them to come forward. When Taucher's case became public, Shapiro said some former clients called Taucher Funeral Home, which is still open, and received refunds. Other alleged victims told investigators they are still waiting for compensation.
Law enforcement officials are using the case as a platform to promote fraud education and prevention.
It’s not uncommon for scammers to target the elderly, Washington County District Attorney Eugene Vittone said.
“Only one in 24 of these cases of financial exploitation is actually being reported to law enforcement,” said Vittone. “Currently, Pennsylvania ranks fourth in the country with the number of people over the age of 60. This population is a ready target for people who are looking to prey upon and steal from these individuals.”
Vittone said his office will work with Shapiro and the state Area Agency on Aging to educate residents about possible scams.
“We’re working with area banks to have them help them identify different financial patterns that will lead to our ability to investigate and ultimately arrest those who prey on our seniors,” Shapiro said.
Ideally, he said that would include expanding his office's regional financial fraud and various identity theft task forces across the state.
In a release, Shapiro and Vittone said consumers should consider the following before planning any funeral:
- "Ensure the funeral home director provides an itemized cost statement for all services, including advance payments for outside vendors, such as obituary notices in newspapers.
- When making any advance payment, request the information on the escrow account and the financial institution where it is held to ensure your funds are properly deposited.
- Anyone with a complaint should contact the PA Funeral Home Directors Association or the Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection at 800-441-2555.
- Make sure you review a general price list before signing any contract or agreement. Make sure to review that list against other price lists obtained from other funeral providers."
Shapiro said anyone who believes he or she is a victim of Taucher, or a possible victim of fraud, should file a report either online at attorneygeneral.gov or 412-565-2192.