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Funeral Home Operator Charged

Families are devastated after a Lancaster County funeral home operator was charged Friday with mishandling their family members remains.

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A judge sentenced a former Lancaster County funeral director Wednesday for charges related to abusing a corpse.

Benajmin Siar is sentenced to 6-14 years in State prison for abusing four bodies during his time as funeral director in Conestoga.

Siar was arrested in February 2013 on 4 charges of theft and 4 charged of abuse of a corpse.  The incidents happened at the Gundel Funeral Home, in Conestoga.

Investigators found 4 bodies over a 6 week period.  They were in various states of decomposition.  Attorney’s say the bodies include a homicide victim and a patient who lost a battle to cancer.

Lancaster County District Attorney, Craig Stedman says, “I think it’s just incomprehensible you can’t conceive something like this taking place and really for no reason than his greed. There were many ways He could have called for help talked to other funeral homes but he’s going to be in state prison because of it.”

A victim spoke in Court, Wednesday.  She says she wanted her mom to be cremated after a long battle with cancer on January 21.  When she found out her mom’s body was still in the basement of Siar’s funeral home the next month, she said her mom didn’t deserve that treatment from Siar.

 

A Lancaster County judge is expected to order Benjamin Siar Junior the remainder of his sentence today.

The director of Gundel Funeral Home admitted to numerous crimes against his clients.

The sentence expected to come Wednesday is for four abuse of corpse charges given back when Siar was arrested in February or 2013.

Right now Siar is sitting on a 10 year maximum prison sentence but the judge told him that number could go up.

In a surprise move, he pleaded guilty in February to 78 counts of theft and fraud for funeral services that families paid for but never received in exchange for a 5 to 10 year prison term.

Lancaster County District Attorney, Craig Stedman, says Benjamin Siar stole nearly $200,000 dollars from 38 victims.

“People are just in disbelief that they’d been taken advantage of at such a moment in their lives..” says Lancaster County District Attorney, Craig Stedman.

After searching the funeral home in February 2013, investigators found four bodies left out in various states of decomposition, including the body of a two-year-old girl who was a murder victim.

“Obviously he betrayed the trust of all of these individuals, of the entire industry,” says Stedman.

Siar’s attorney says his client is happy with his sentence for his financial crimes – and as part of that sentence Siar must also pay restitution to the victims, estimated to be about $150,000 dollars.

Wednesday’s sentencing is expected to begin around 1:30 at the Lancaster County Courthouse.

Stay with FOX43 for continuing coverage.

A surprise guilty plea in the case of a former Lancaster County Funeral Director. Benjamin Siar, 42, of Lancaster, will serve five to ten years in prison for more than 80 counts of theft and fraud charges.

Siar’s trial before Judge Dennis Reinaker was set to begin today, but before it started, Siar informed his defense attorney, Alan Goldberg, that he would like to enter a guilty plea.

Police arrested Siar on February 1, 2013, initially on four charges of theft by deception and four charges of abuse of a corpse. The charges stemmed from a January search of the Gundel Funeral Home in Conestoga, where Siar was funeral director and owner.

Investigators found four bodies left out in various stages of decomposition inside the funeral home, including the body of a two-year-old girl who was the victim of a homicide.

In April, District Attorney Craig Stedman added 75 additional counts of theft and fraud for funeral services that families paid for, but never received.

Stedman said Siar stole nearly $200,000 from 38 Gundel clients.

“People are just in disbelief that they’d been taken advantage of at such a moment in their lives and obviously he betrayed the trust of all of these individuals, of the entire industry,” Stedman said after the hearing.

Siar was only sentenced for his financial crimes. Goldberg said his client is satisfied with the sentence.

He is set to back in court on March 26th for sentencing on four abuse of corpse charges.

A Lancaster County funeral director faces losing his license and other penalties after the Pa Department of State files formal disciplinary action.  Benjamin Siar, Jr., owner and manager of Gundel Funeral Home based in Conestoga, was ordered today to show cause in writing within thirty days why his funeral director’s license should not be suspended, revoked, or restricted. Siar also faces a civil penalty and costs of the investigation.  The State Department oversees the State Board of Funeral Directors. Siar’s funeral director’s license was issued in 2002 and is current through February 2014.

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The formal complaint cites twenty-two counts related to Siar failing to fulfill agreed upon funeral and cremation services after accepting payment. Siar faces a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for each and every violation of the 1952 Funeral Director Law and the amended Act of 1993.

Last week Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman filed criminal charges against Siar.  Those charges include four counts of abuse of a corpse and four counts of theft by deception.

Families are devastated after a Lancaster County funeral home operator was charged Friday with mishandling their family members remains. Pamela Erb lost her mother on January 21st and the family held a small funeral service for her. Her family was waiting for her cremated remains but they stopped hearing from funeral director Benjamin Siar.  She called police for help. “I think it’s worse what he did with the remains of people than what he did taking the money,” said Erb. “You trust people in that industry to do well by you, he abused the trust. I hope he gets the stiffest penalty for every charge that he’s been charged with.”

Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman said Siar accepted payment for the cremation services but their bodies were never cremated. Thursday night police searched the funeral home and found four bodies inside. One was in a cardboard box, one was in a cooling unit, and the others were laying out in the open. Some had passed away over a month ago. “All of them in state of decomposition and obviously disturbing circumstances,” Stedman said.

“She wanted us to get on with our lives, and now this happened. We haven’t been able to get on with our lives and we won’t for quite a while,” said Erb.

Benjamin Siar is accused of abusing four corpses and theft by deception after police found four decomposing bodies at the Gundel Funeral Home in Conestoga. He turned himself in to the district attorney’s office Friday night and was booked into the Lancaster County Prison on $250,000 bail.

A Lancaster County funeral home operator is facing some disturbing charges.

Benjamin M. Siar is accused of abusing four corpses and theft by deception after authorities found four decomposing bodies at the Gundel Funeral Home in Conestoga.

Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman said Siar accepted payment for the cremation and funeral services of each one.

“The families, I imagine, will never be able to forget this. He’s got to answer for this,” Stedman said.

Siar is facing four counts of abuse of a corpse and four counts of theft by deception.

“This is going to get much bigger. Particularly in the financial realm. We hope that’s the end of the bodies, but I can’t say that it is,” Stedman said.

Authorities carried out a search warrant Thursday night and found the bodies inside. One was in a cardboard box, one was in a cooling unit, and the others were just laying out in the open. All passed away between December 20 and January 21.

“All of them in state of decomposition and obviously disturbing circumstances,” Stedman said.

“The family members of these people who passed away put their trust in him, put their trust in the funeral home, that your loved one will be taken care of with honor, dignity, respect. And instead what they’ve received is and what we’ve had to inform them of today are these indignities,” Stedman said.

Siar turned himself in to the district attorney’s office Friday night. He was booked into the Lancaster County Prison on $250,000 bail.

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