Funeral Fraud

I haven’t seen any episodes of Six Feet Under, but this definitely seems like a case of truth being stranger than fiction. From today’s The translation is mine.

Funeral Parlor Owner Changed Coffins

A trial unheard of in the history of the Czech mortuary business. That’s how many people in the mortuary industry are calling the case against 47-year-old Jaroslav Heinz. 200 bereaved, defrauded and aggreived figure in the case. They bought expensive coffins from Heinz’ Maxi funeral home in Bohumin, only to find mortuary employees changing the coffins for cheaper ones in the morgue. The deceased were then transported and cremated in the cheaper coffins.

Jaroslav Heinz doesn’t want to comment on the case. He refused to give evidence to police, and refused to testify yesterday before the court in Karvina. Some of Maxi’s former employees came to court. One, Pavel Gajda, confirmed manipulation with the deceased. “It’s like if you asked a greengrocer how many potatoes he’s handled,” Gajda responded to a prosecution question about how many times employees moved bodies to cheaper coffins.

Everything apparently happened under Heinz’ orders. The deceased were taken to funerals in so-called ‘cremation coffins.’ “They were black in the beginning, and then they had the color of composite board,” said Gajda, describing the appearance of the cheap coffins. These were bought by Maxi employees at the Ostrava crematorium. According to police, the difference in price between the ones the bereaved paid and the ones that were cremated was as much as 5,000 CZK ($194 USD).

Former employee Gajda had no idea that moving the deceased into cheaper coffins was illegal. “I thought the coffins were only being rented,” he told the court. He admitted that if Maxi had interred his father, he would make sure that the body was not being transferred. He added that some of the employees got extraordinary financial bonuses. They called these “perks.”

According to the prosecution, the transfer of the deceased took place in the morgue of Bohumin hospital between 1999 and 2002. The amount the fraud was to have made is more than a half million crowns ($19,500). Police began investigating on the basis of an anonymous tip. Many witnesses called by the court did not come. “I don’t want to comment on the case. We’re just at the beginning,” said state prosecutor Iveta Kozielová.

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