Non-profit defends use of clients money for high end funeral as Sheriff's deputies investigate
Last Updated: 79 days ago
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -
23ABC has a follow up in the case of an elderly woman who was sold an expensive funeral package before she died, but she didn’t even get the most basic services after her death.
That high end funeral plan was purchased by Stewards Inc.
They handle money for the disabled and elderly so their finances aren’t abused.
But now one of their employees is being investigated for exactly that.
Kern County Sheriff’s deputies are investigating a theft case where they say a Lake Isabella mortuary sold at least one person an expensive funeral package but then didn’t deliver.
An elderly woman, Dorothy Collins, was having her money handled by Stewards Inc.
Collin's house was sold after her she went to a nursing home.
The sale netted $40,000 profit.
Because Collins didn’t have any family, the money was turned over to Stewards to manage for her.
Stewards employee Brenda Cary was assigned to handle the money.
Officials at Stewards say she bought a prepaid funeral plan on Collin’s behalf because she was trying to lower her assets to keep qualified for state health benefits.
The first funeral package didn’t lower her assets enough so carry upgraded her to a cherry casket.
Altogether the prepaid funeral plan cost $11,000.
Stewards says their goal is to always spend their clients’ money wisely and in a way that improves their quality of life.
The whole thing was suspicious enough to draw the attention of the coroner and the sheriff's office who started a theft investigation.
Stewards Inc. says they did their own investigation into their employee’s actions.
As part of the investigation the sheriff's office dug up Collins to see if she had really gotten all the services she had paid for.
They found she hadn’t been embalmed, was still in a hospital gown and was buried in something other than a top of the line cherry casket.
Sierra Valley Mortuary who sold the funeral refused our requests for comment.
We reached Brenda Cary by phone on Friday. She denied she did anything wrong but refused to comment further.
So far no criminal charges have been filed.
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