Thursday, February 07, 2002

Ex-funeral director charged

He stole $82,000 from 16 families, prosecutor says

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The former owner of Hawthorne-Bowles Funeral Home in Mount Healthy has been indicted on 20 counts alleging he stole $82,000 from 16 families who purchased “pre-need” funeral contracts.

        Gerald F. Bowles, 48, is accused of taking the money from the families between 1991 and 2001.

        He was indicted on 16 counts of felony theft, three counts of failure to comply with laws regulating the funds and one count of falsification. If convicted, he faces more than 20 years in prison and may be ordered to repay the money.

        “It's pretty much the lowest of low,” Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen said.

        “This is a person who took money from people who were trying to take care of the very last thing on earth they need to take care of,” he said. “People purchase these pre-need funeral contracts for peace of mind.”

        The funeral home closed last year and has been sold.

        There are about 1,200 funeral homes in Ohio, and cases of directors stealing money from families are extremely rare, said Ann Cunningham, executive director of the Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors.

        Mr. Bowles was required by law to place the money he received from families for funeral arrangements in separate trust accounts and use the funds only for their specified purpose.

        He also was supposed to provide an accounting to the state of all funds each year and protect the money by maintaining a bond.

        Instead, he stole the money and did't maintain the bond — and although he filed reports with the state, they weren't accurate, Mr. Allen said.

        The families, including mostly senior citizens, filed reports with the Mount Healthy Police Department last spring, said Detective Jeff Armontrout.

        The Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors directed some of those families to police after receiving complaints, Ms. Cunningham said.

        Meanwhile, the money is gone, according to the indictments.

        Mr. Bowles already is incarcerated at the Hamilton County jail after pleading guilty in July to violating a protective order when he made a threatening phone call to his wife in June.


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