PARMA, Ohio (WJW) – The FOX 8 I-Team has found dozens of families now getting justice for getting ripped off after loved ones died.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutors have just indicted Karen Hayes for cheating 54 victims out of $70,000. It’s a new fallout from an investigation going back more than a dozen years.
Investigators say Hayes ran The Casket Store in Parma.
Prosecutors say she took money for caskets and headstones, but never delivered or simply pocketed money after people paid in advance for funerals while constantly giving families excuses.
“The conduct is unexplainable,” Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Ed Brydle said.
He said many of the victims are elderly.
“Eventually, the victims realized, after year, 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 began back in 2019. Complaints started coming in and Hayes was even arrested.
Still, charges were put on hold as Parma detectives started getting more complaints and looking into it. Police finally uncovered all of the victims listed in the new indictment.
Friday, the I-Team tried three phone numbers, left a voice message, left a text message and knocked on the door of a home, but we got no response from Hayes.
Rita Duplaga reacted when we told her of the new charges. Her mother-in-law died and she said the family never got a headstone ordered through The Casket Store.
Duplaga now finds herself encouraged to see prosecution.
“Good. Good because 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.
We wondered, since this went on for so long, didn’t anyone ever go to civil court and file a lawsuit? Well, the Ohio Attorney General did file suit on behalf of former customers. Records show Hayes never even responded to the civil court claims.
A judge ruled against her and ordered penalties, but court records do not indicate if anything has ever been paid.
Hayes won’t be able to ignore the criminal charges, though.
The store is now closed. Yet, after all of this, investigators believe there could be even more victims.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutors say they could look into more complaints with Parma Police if anyone else comes forward.