Posted on August 27, 2018

Chicago’s Predatory Funeral Homes Target Homicide Victims, Cash In on Taxpayer-Funded Expenses

Barnini Chakraborty, Fox News, August 23, 2018

Predatory funeral homes have been accused of cashing in on Chicago’s relentless crime wave by taking advantage of a taxpayer-funded scheme that pays $7,500 in funeral expenses for homicide victims’ families.

Advocates have accused some funeral directors of inflating prices or charging families for services they never received.

“Every funeral home in the state knows that victims get $7,500 for a funeral and it’s their goal to charge the entire amount because it’s easy money,” Susan Johnson, executive director of Chicago Survivors, told Fox News.


The state – along with the federal government – provides eligible victims of violent crime with up to $27,000 in financial assistance for out-of-pocket expenses. The families of murder victims get $7,500 for funeral costs.

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost of a funeral for an adult is between $7,000 and $8,300. The Federal Trade Commission puts the figure slightly higher at around $10,000.


The $7,500 from the Crime Victim’s Compensation fund is supposed to go toward staff salary, use of facilities, transportation, a casket as well as other memorialization costs. The price jumps if flowers, clothing or an obituary is added.

Johnson, a former pastor, {snip} claims a funeral home held a body hostage because the family could not come up with additional funds after being quoted one price but charged a higher amount.


The bad behavior is allowed in part because cash-strapped cities like Chicago lack the resources to crack down on fraudsters, giving greedy operators the green light to target grief-stricken families.


Rooting out funeral fraud, by comparison, is not something on the radar of authorities.

“It’s not a high priority,” Johnson said, adding that she’s been privately told there are simply not enough resources at the national, state or local level to go after those trying to bilk the system.

“That’s the excuse of every government agency, isn’t it?” Joshua Solcum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, told Fox News.


The Illinois attorney general’s office, as well as multiple state and local leaders, declined to comment on what – if anything – it is doing to combat the problem.

The National Funeral Directors Association maintains its members are required to abide by the code of professional conduct “which is centered on an obligation to serve families in an honest and fair manner.”

The organization told Fox News that all funeral homes in the United States must adhere to the FTC’s funeral rule which “requires transparency when discussing prices with families.”


Another reason some funeral homes are not held to account is because victims’ families are often too emotionally drained to report abuses.


In one particularly shocking case, a 45-year-old woman’s body had been partially burned. The funeral home failed to pick up her remains in time for the service. Instead, they put an empty casket in front of the church and didn’t tell the family. When the victim’s 19-year-old son demanded to see his mother’s body, the funeral director eventually produced a second casket. When it was opened, mourners were horrified that the mortician failed to dress the body as they claimed they had. The last image the son had of his murdered mother was a charred and mangled mess.