FORT MYERS, Fla. - Call for Action has uncovered a funeral scam that is crossing the country. The scam has the potential to catch you when you're most vulnerable.
This funeral scam is happening when people may not be paying careful attention. Extra expenses when people aren't planning on it comes down to doing your homework.
Clarence Corter thought he put his funeral worries to rest after buying a casket from a company called Celestial Burials in Pittsburgh. The 30-year veteran from Seattle found the ad for the casket in the VFW magazine.
"We ordered a casket with an Air Force insignia on it, and then we ordered one for me too because they were less expensive," said Betty Corter, fraud victim.
Several years later, Clarence passed away so Betty called Celestial Burials.
"We called the funeral home to let them know the casket would be shipped to them in 24 hours," said Corter.
But that didn't happen when Betty's family arrived at the funeral home.
"We were going to the viewing, when we got the funeral home he was lying on a table," said Corter.
Betty and her children had to immediately pay an additional and unexpected $3,500 for a casket. But some families can't afford to buy a casket on the spot and some funeral homes agree to front services but risk never being paid back. Funeral directors say do your research.
"With the advent of the technology we have today, the Internet and word of mouth, has anybody else done business with these people are they people of their word. That is the crux of any business," said Joseph Lapinski, funeral director.
Postal inspectors said the Corter family is among almost 5,000 victims who lost more than $2.4 million to the scheme. Sadly, many were World War II Veterans.
"At the sentencing, the judge said there was no doubt in his mind that given the opportunity the suspect would do it all over again," said Don Rood, U.S. Postal Inspector.
The owner of Celestial Burials, Joe Stabile, pleaded guilty to charges including conspiracy and mail fraud. He spent six years in federal prison.