Funeral Director Who Plundered Estates Is Found Guilty

The Hartford Courant

A funeral home director accused of stealing the assets of dead people as he removed their bodies from their homes was convicted Thursday of a host of larceny charges and faces two years in prison.

Kevin Riley, owner of Hartford Trade Services, was accused by state investigators of using a contract to pick up bodies for the state medical examiner's office as a way to steal from the dead.

Riley would have himself appointed administrator of the estates of people with no relatives, giving him access to money and property with little or no scrutiny. Riley and his co-conspirator, Yolanda Faulkner, would then steal money, jewelry and paintings and sell some of them through an auction house where Faulkner also was the bookkeeper.

Faulkner also was found guilty Thursday and also faces a two-year prison sentence.

Faulkner pleaded guilty under the Alford doctrine to two counts of first-degree larceny, two counts of second-degree larceny, attempted larceny, forgery and filing a false tax return. While not admitting guilt, she conceded that the state had enough evidence to convict her at trial. With the plea agreement, she faces significantly less time in prison than if she had gone to trial.

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. 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 must also surrender his embalming and funeral director licenses. They are scheduled to be back in court in November.

Riley's attorney, John Droney of Farmington, said that Riley must show the judge that he has the financial wherewithal to pay the restitution to the chief state's attorney's office. His sentencing probably will not be until January. Riley has the right to argue for less jail time.

"This has been a long time coming, and I hope that the public will reserve judgment about Kevin until they hear all of the facts when he is sentenced,'' Droney said.

Riley was arrested last October, 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.

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