Fayette County funeral home director accused of stealing clients’ pre-paid funeral funds

UNIONTOWN, Fayette County — A Uniontown funeral home director is facing federal charges after allegedly stealing almost $300,000 from senior citizen clients who had pre-paid for their own funerals, Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced Monday.

Stephen E. Kezmarsky III, 50, is accused of collecting $284,393 in advance payments from 51 clients to cover their funeral expenses at the Kezmarsky Funeral Home from October 2010 to March 2017.

Instead of placing the money in escrow — as required under state law — Kezmarsky allegedly co-mingled the funds with his business and personal accounts and misappropriated his clients’ money, Shapiro said.

The charges were announced at a news conference at the Fayette County Courthouse in Uniontown by Shapiro and Fayette County District Attorney Rich Bower, whose office investigated the case with the Office of Attorney General.

“This defendant betrayed dozens of seniors who placed their trust in him,” Shapiro said at the news conference. “Many of the victims in this case live on fixed incomes and set aside this money so their funerals wouldn’t be a burden on their loved ones. Instead, their funds were stolen, and we’re here today to hold the person responsible accountable.”

Kezmarsky allegedly used the funds for his funeral home’s business expenses — and for personal use. He allegedly spent some of the money at local restaurants and gas stations, on airline flights, and at Pennsylvania liquor stores, Shapiro’s office said.

He also allegedly filled out applications for funeral insurance policies for clients, but never sent the money or applications for processing, according to the attorney general.

Kezmarsky and the funeral home filed for bankruptcy last year. The business was sold on April 28, 2017.

Kezmarsky is charged with 84 felony counts of theft by deception, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds, forgery and insurance fraud. He was arrested today and will be arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Michael M. Metros.

Senior Deputy Attorney General Dennis Kistler and District Attorney Bower will co-prosecute the case.

Attorney General Shapiro said investigators believe there may be other victims, and he urged people to contact his office or District Attorney Bower.

“If you or a loved one was victimized by this funeral home, I want to hear from you,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “Call my Insurance Fraud investigators or District Attorney Bower. We’ll pursue every lead we receive.”

The Insurance Fraud number is 412-880-0129. The district attorney’s office is 724-430-1245.

Shapiro and Bower outlined a series of tips that seniors or any consumer should consider before planning any funeral.

  • Make sure the funeral home director provides an itemized cost statement for all services, including advance payments for vendors, such as obituary notices in newspapers.
  • When making any advance payment or pre-payment, request in writing where the pre-payment will be deposited and held in escrow.
  • Anyone with a complaint should contact the State Board of Funeral Directors or the Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection at 800-441-2555.
  • Ask for references and check them, particularly with family and friends.

 “We are focused on protecting Pennsylvania seniors every day,” Shapiro said. “My office will hold anyone accountable who victimizes the elderly in Pennsylvania.”