WINFIELD,W.Va. — A Putnam County funeral home director will face 3 to 30 years in prison and up to $30,000 in fines for defrauding an insurance company.
Chad Harding, owner of Gatens-Harding Funeral Home, entered the plea agreement with the Putnam County Prosecutor’s office on Monday to settle criminal charges. Harding cashed in pre-need funeral arrangements for more than 100 people who had not died.
“He sent messages to the insurance company saying people died when they didn’t and he got the money for the funeral,” said Putnam County Prosecutor Mark Sorsaia. “That was the fraud part.”
The case came to Sorsaia’s office after an investigation by the state Insurance Commission. Harding enter the plea to avoid a trial and possibly stiffer penalties. The plea comes after a judgement was reached in a lawsuit over the case from earlier this year–a judgement against Harding which was sold to a third party. According to Sorsaia it has created difficulty in determining restitution in the case.
“It’s a very complicated deal,” said Sorsaia. “It was in the 900 thousands they got a judgement. Somebody bought the judgement so the insurance company got money and then the insurance company had a fraud policy and got money from another company. We’ve just got to sort out whose entitled to what.”
One group that will not be left holding the bag are those who bought a pre-need funeral arrangement. The company, Homesteaders Insurance, agreed to honor all of the policies even though they have already paid on many of them.
Part of the plea also called for Harding to aid in ongoing investigations related and unrelated to his particular case.
“He’s involved in some other activities we’re looking at which I really can’t comment on,” said Sorsaia. “Part of the agreement is he’s going to cooperate with state and federal authorities for us to look into those matters more thoroughly.”