HARRISBURG – Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced the arrest of a Chester County funeral director and consulting firm principal. He is being charged with using his capacity as Power of Attorney and Estate Executor to steal money from an 84-year-old, terminally ill victim, whose estate was to be donated to locally-connected charities. The victim passed on September 7, 2016.
“Mr. Neeld was supposed to carry out the will of a terminally ill man, but instead exploited that trust for his own gain and stole thousands of dollars meant for local charities,” said Attorney General Shapiro. “Part of having a dignified end-of-life is the peace of mind knowing that your final wishes will be carried out — and it is despicable when that trust is violated for profit. Pennsylvanians can be certain that my office is on the lookout for these crimes and will hold anyone accountable who fails to faithfully carry out their responsibilities.”
On March 9, 2016, terminally ill Bucks County resident Keith Jerome signed a Power of Attorney form, giving Kenneth Neeld, Jr., 47, authority to manage his financial assets. Jerome’s will directed Neeld to donate all of his financial assets to Amigos de Jesus, Zawadi Fund International, and the Coatesville Senior Center after Jerome’s passing. Amigos de Jesus and Zawadi Fund International both fund educational programs assisting impoverished children.
An investigation by the Office of Attorney General’s Special Agent, Rachel Story, determined that from March 2016 through September 2020, Neeld repeatedly stole money from Jerome and his estate, most typically by transferring money directly to his own bank accounts. Neeld also used Jerome’s money to directly pay his own personal bills, such as the cost of a vacation home rental, federal income taxes, state income taxes, local taxes, real estate taxes, an orthodontist bill, a veterinary bill, auto repair bills, auto insurance premiums, credit card bills, EZ pass bills, and parking tickets.
Neeld also donated Jerome’s money to non-profits not included in the will, transferred ownership of Jerome’s car to himself, charged Jerome’s insurance company for a funeral that Neeld never performed, forged a document suggesting that Jerome owed Neeld money that he’d already stolen, and provided false information on the Jerome Estate tax return in order to conceal his thefts. To facilitate his thefts, Neeld also led another insurance company to believe that Jerome was still alive.
In total, Neeld stole $257,916.61 from the charities that were the sole beneficiaries of Jerome’s will.
Neeld is charged with felony counts for Theft, Forgery, Insurance Fraud, and related charges. The case was investigated by Special Agent Rachel Story, and is being prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney General M. Eric Schoenberg. All charges are accusations and the defendant is innocent unless and until proven guilty.
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