Funeral Home Director Sentenced To 8 Month
The Hartford Courant
1:49 p.m. EST, January 25, 2011
An East Hartford funeral home director accused of using a contract with the state medical examiner's office to gain access to the estates of dead people and then stealing their assets was sentenced Tuesday to eight months in prison.
Kevin Riley, 54, owner of Hartford Trade Services, also must surrender his funeral home license to the state Department of Public Health and repay the state for double-billing two state agencies for transporting bodies.
Riley had himself appointed administrator of the estates of people with no relatives, giving him access to money and property with little or no scrutiny, prosecutors said. Riley and his co-conspirator, Yolande Faulkner, would then steal money, jewelry and paintings and sell some of them through an auction house where Faulkner also was the bookkeeper.
Faulkner, who also was charged with larceny, received a 5-year suspended sentence and must also pay full restitution. She also must perform 100 hours of community service during each of 3 years of probation.Riley must perform 50 hours of community service during each of 3 years of probation in addition to the jail term.
Prosecutor John Malone recommended Riley be sentenced to 7 years and Faulker to 5 years, but Judge David P. Gold said that was too much.
Gold said they took advantage of people at difficult times, but because Faulkner cares for a disabled husband and her elderly mother, putting her in prison would hurt them, Gold said. He also took into account that Faulker served 5 days in jail after her arrest.
Gold said Riley deserved prison time because he had to pay a price for his conduct and to send a message to others.
Riley pleaded guilty under the Alford doctrine to first-degree larceny, second-degree larceny and conspiracy to commit first-degree larceny for crimes involving the taking of money and property from the homes of dead people and for providing an extravagant funeral for a man whose life insurance policy he had cashed in.
He entered straight guilty pleas to charges that he double-billed the state and the families of dead people for whom he made arrangements at a facility in Meriden. State investigators said Riley billed two different state agencies at least $200 per body to transport more than 100 bodies to his East Hartford funeral home.
All told, Riley, through Hartford Trade Services, billed the Department of Social Services and the Office of the Chief State Medical Examiner more than $25,000. In many of those cases, Riley also charged the state $1,800 in burial fees — while also charging the person's estate that same amount.
The dead were cremated and the cost of a box in which their remains were placed was included in the cost of service. Riley admitted double-billing the state Department of Social Services and families of the dead for the boxes.
Riley was ordered to pay restitution totaling $62,902. Faulkner was ordered to pay restitution of $13,296.
Riley was arrested in 2009, culminating a three-year investigation by the chief state's attorney's office that started when Meriden Probate Judge Brian Mahon raised questions about how Riley handled the disposal of the body of Julia Drozd, who died in August 2006.
In the Drozd case, Riley was appointed temporary administrator and immediately cleaned out Drozd's house, even though she had a son who was still living in the home. When Mahon notified state probate officials of his concerns, they ordered a review of all cases that Riley had been involved in.
The arrest warrant quotes former employees of Riley as saying that they found "bundles" of money tucked away under recliners and in desk drawers when they cleaned out the Drozd house. One employee estimated that there was between $20,000 and $24,000 found in the home.
In an itemized list handed to the Meriden Probate Court, Riley stated that they found $923 in the Drozd home.
Investigators believe that at least some of the items taken from Drozd's home, as well as from the estates of Anne Drysdale of Stamford and Joseph Chionski of West Hartford, both cases that Riley handled for the medical examiner's office, were sold by Faulkner at Weston's Antiques in Coventry.
Auction house records show that among the property sold from the Drysdale estate were Tiffany and sterling silver items.
After a series of stories in The Courant about Riley and estates that he had administered, the Connecticut Board of Examiners of Embalmers and Funeral Directors conducted a hearing and eventually fined Riley $10,000 while allowing him to keep his license.
When he testified before the board, Riley said he had been unfairly portrayed as a "ghoul" by The Courant.
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