GREELEY, Colo. - A former funeral director admitted he sold fake funeral arrangements to 14 elderly people in Greeley.
Paul Acuna pleaded guilty in Weld County District court on Thursday and agreed to pay restitution to all victims as part of a plea agreement.
As owner and operator of Paul's Funeral Service in Greeley, Acuna presold funeral arrangements to residents, taking more than $31,034 for services to be provided upon their death.
He promised the victims that the money would be held in trust and if his business closed, the service would be transferred to another funeral home.
However, Acuna never put the money in trust and instead spent it for personal use then moved out of state, closing his business in 2012, without alerting the clients who had prepaid for funeral services, prosecutors said.
His accounts show large amounts of money spent on gambling, entertainment and shopping during the time in question, prosecutors said.
As part of the plea, Acuna pleaded guilty to one felony charge of theft from an at-risk adult and additional felony charges were dismissed.
Colorado law requires funeral directors to be licensed in order to pre-sell advance funeral services and to keep at least 75 percent of the amount paid in a trust account. Acuna did neither.
His guilty plea comes on the heels of a jury conviction in another theft and fraud involving his now defunct funeral business.
Jurors on Dec. 5 convicted Acuna of one felony count of theft between $1,000 and $20,000, and 11 felony counts of forgery of a government issued document.
In that case, he forged funeral contracts to defraud the Weld Department of Human Services out of money to assist low-income clients with funeral costs, then pocketed the payments. He was convicted of forging 11 contracts worth $13,589.84.
Acuna will be sentenced in both cases on Feb. 5. The sentencing range is open to the
judge, who will decide whether the terms will run consecutively or concurrently.
For the at-risk theft charge, Acuna faces four to 12 years in prison. The sentencing range for the
felony theft is two to six years and for each of the forgery charges is one to three years.