Attorney General Josh Shapiro Details Case Against Funeral Home Director Charged with Stealing $340K from SW Pennsylvanians

February 9, 2017 | Topic: Criminal

WASHINGTON, Pa. — Today, Attorney General Josh Shapiro detailed an array of charges against a Washington County funeral home director charged with stealing $340,000 from her elderly clients in part to support her gambling habit.

The arrest of Lynn S. Taucher, 56, of Burgettstown, revealed that over a 9 ½ year period, she collected advance payments from 49 clients to cover their funeral expenses at the Taucher Funeral Home. Instead of placing the money in individual escrow accounts as required by state law, Taucher co-mingled the funds with her personal finances and misappropriated her clients’ money, investigators from the Attorney General’s Office charged in a criminal complaint.

“This defendant betrayed dozens of elderly people who placed their trust in her,” Attorney General Shapiro said at a news conference today at Washington City Hall. “Many of the victims here are frail, living on fixed incomes, and set aside this money so their funeral would not be a burden on their families. Instead, they were taken advantage of, and that’s wrong.”

Taucher is charged with 46 felony counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds, three misdemeanor counts of the same offense, and one count each of forgery and insurance fraud. Her bail was set at $20,000 unsecured at a preliminary arraignment. Taucher waived a preliminary hearing. The OAG prosecutor is Deputy Attorney General Courtney Butterfield.

Shapiro said OAG investigators believe there may be other potential victims, and are encouraging any person who believes they or a loved one was victimized in this case to contact OAG. Potential victims can call 412-565-2192 at OAG’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations.

Attorney General Shapiro was joined at today’s news conference by Washington County District Attorney Eugene Vittone and Kathleen Gustine, Esq., Legal and Protective Services Director for Southwestern PA Area Agency on Aging, an advocacy organization for seniors.

Vittone, whose office referred this case to the Attorney General’s Office, thanked Shapiro for the cooperation between their offices – essential in ferreting out these kind of financial crimes.

“This is a complicated case, involving dozens of victims, many of them elderly and infirm,” Vittone said. “The resources and work of the Office of Attorney General were invaluable in uncovering and documenting these crimes in Washington County.”

Gustine, of the Southwestern PA Area Agency on Aging, said a prime purpose of her agency is to “collaborate with law enforcement in educating southwest Pennsylvania seniors so they are less likely to be victimized by financial crimes and scams.”

Shapiro, Vittone and Gustine said this case highlights the need for more protections for the elderly against financial crimes and other forms of abuse.

“This case shows the importance of law enforcement working together and I commend District Attorney Vittone for partnering with us. It also reminds us of the urgent need to do more to fight the financial and criminal exploitation of our seniors,” Shapiro said. “Whether it’s unscrupulous telemarketers or home contractors – on someone in the community you trusted – we have to do more to protect our seniors from harm.”

Attorney General Shapiro and District Attorney Vittone outlined a series of points that seniors or any consumer should consider before planning any funeral. These consumer protection tips are:

  • Ensure the funeral home director provides an itemized cost statement for all services, including advance payments for outside vendors, such as obituary notices in newspapers.
  • When making any advance payment, request the information on the escrow account and the financial institution where it is held to ensure your funds are properly deposited.
  • Anyone with a complaint should contact the PA Funeral Home Directors Association or the Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection at 800-441-2555.
  • Make sure you review a general price list before signing any contract or agreement. Make sure to review that list against other price lists obtained from other funeral providers.

Attorney General Shapiro also outlined other areas of work underway within the Office of Attorney General to protect seniors, including:

  • Working with Area Agencies on Aging to root out financial abuse of the elderly
  • Enlisting banks to help detect financial exploitation of seniors
  • Establishing regional financial fraud and identity theft task forces

Expanding protection from abuse orders to cover non-family caregivers.

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