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Insurer accuses funeral home of faking deaths to collect payments

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Nothing, they say, is certain except death and taxes — but a funeral home that allegedly falsely reported the deaths of more than 100 people is now facing a court battle with an insurer that accuses it of fraud.

West Des Moines, Iowa-based Homesteaders Life Co. last month filed a complaint against Gatens-Harding Funeral Home Inc. and its owners, Chad. R. Harding and Billie J. Harding, according to the West Virginia Record.

In the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court Southern District of West Virginia, Homesteaders alleges that the Poca, West Virginia-based funeral home falsely reported the deaths of 111 people who had signed up for pre-need funeral contracts and collected almost $1 million from the insurer.

Under the alleged scheme, Homesteaders paid commission to Chad Harding for customers who signed up to pre-need funeral contracts. And the funeral home also was paid an override and bonus, according to the insurer.

Then, on the “death” of a customer, Homesteaders would release funds to the funeral home.

According to the complaint, Chad Harding in about 2012 began submitting false death claims and informed the insurer that the contracted-for funeral services had been provided.

According to the complaint, however, some 111 of those customers had not died, and no funeral service had been performed.

Homesteaders accuses the defendants of fraud, violation of laws on racketeering, conversion, breach of contract and unjust enrichment.

On its Facebook page, the funeral home said: “There are always two sides to every story. We are not perfect and, yes, we make mistakes. Our attorney is working to get this resolved as soon as possible, and if we owe anything it will be paid completely.”