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Colorado funeral home owners accused of mishandling 190 bodies charged with Covid-19 relief loan fraud, officials say

By Melissa Alonso and Andi Babineau, CNN

(CNN) — The owners of a Colorado funeral home accused of mishandling nearly 200 sets of human remains are now facing charges for allegedly fraudulently obtaining more than $880,000 in Covid-19 relief funds and using it for personal expenses like trips and jewelry, federal prosecutors said.

Jon and Carie Hallford each face federal charges, including 13 counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado said in a news release Monday.

The Hallfords are accused of using $882,300 in pandemic relief loans meant to help support small businesses on things like “a vehicle, multiple vacations, entertainment, dining, tuition for a minor child, cryptocurrency, cosmetic medical procedures, jewelry” and items from Amazon, an indictment filed in the US District Court of Colorado said.

The two pleaded not guilty at their arraignment Thursday. Federal Judge Scott T. Varholak said Jon Hallford will remain in custody pending trial. Carie Hallford is eligible for release, the judge ruled, but must wear a GPS monitoring device and live in a halfway house. A hearing on that matter is scheduled for Tuesday.

CNN reached out to both of their attorneys for comment. The policy of the office of the federal defender is to not comment on ongoing cases, Jon’s attorney said. Carie’s attorney declined to comment.

The Hallfords also face state charges related to the October discovery in of 190 sets of human remains improperly stored at their Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose, Colorado. The facility said it offered “green burials,” without embalming fluid, in a biodegradable casket or “none at all.” Their arraignments on those charges are scheduled for June 6.

Investigators were called to the funeral home after receiving a report of an odor coming from the building, Fremont County officials said at the time.

The Hallfords were arrested in November by the Colorado Bureau of Investigations on 190 counts of abuse of a corpse and counts of theft, money laundering and forgery, according to state charging documents.

They have not yet entered pleas for those charges.

The federal indictment alleges the pair defrauded their funeral home customers by not providing a cremation or burial for the deceased as promised.

“Beginning as early as September of 2019, and continuing through October of 2023, the Hallfords failed to cremate or bury approximately 190 bodies in connection with the scheme,” the indictment said. They allegedly “collected in excess of $130,000 from victims for cremation or burial services which they never provided,” prosecutors allege.

The Hallfords “concealed the gruesome collection of bodies … by preventing outsiders from entering their building, covering the windows and doors of the building to limit others from viewing inside, and providing false statements to others regarding the foul odor emanating from the building and the true nature of the activity occurring inside,” the indictment said.

The Hallfords each face up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines if convicted in the federal case, according to the indictment.

Demolition of the funeral home is set to begin Tuesday, the US Environmental Protection Agency said last month.

“Following the assessment, EPA has determined that demolition of the building is necessary to safely remove all residual medical and biological materials found in the building. The cleanup will be conducted under the direction of EPA’s Emergency Response personnel and its trained hazardous materials contractors,” the agency said.

CNN’s Andi Babineau contributed to this report.

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