PARMA, Ohio (WJW) — Dozens of families are now getting justice after claiming they were ripped off by the owner of a store that sold caskets and headstones.
Prosecutors in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, have indicted Karen Hayes, who ran The Casket Store in Parma, for cheating 54 victims out of $70,000.
Investigations into the allegations go back more than 12 years.
Prosecutors say Hayes took money for caskets and headstones, but never delivered or simply pocketed money after people paid in advance for funerals, while constantly giving the families excuses.
“The conduct is unexplainable,” Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Ed Brydle said.
Many of the victims were also elderly, Brydle said.
“Eventually, the victims realized… that they were never going to get that headstone and they were forced to go somewhere else and pay money again,” Brydle said.
The investigation into Hayes began back in 2019. Complaints started coming in and she was even arrested.
Still, charges were put on hold as detectives began receiving more complaints. Police finally uncovered all of the victims listed in the new indictment.
Friday, NewsNation affiliate WJW tried three phone numbers, left both voice and text messages, and on the door of a home, but got no response from Hayes.
Rita Duplaga, whose family never received their headstone from The Casket Store after her mother-in-law died, said she was encouraged to see the prosecution of Hayes.
“That’s a horrible time to be hurting somebody. You know, you’ve lost somebody and now they’re going to take you for a ride,” she said.
The Ohio Attorney General had previously filed a suit on behalf of former customers, but records show Hayes never responded to the civil court claims.
A judge ruled against her and ordered penalties, but court records do not indicate if anything had ever been paid.
Hayes’ store is now closed, but investigators believe there could be even more victims.
Cuyahoga County prosecutors say they will look into more complaints with Parma police if any other victims come forward.