Funeral Home Owners Found with 190 Decaying Bodies Spent $900K in COVID Fraud Scheme: Authorities

Jon Hallford and Carie Hallford are accused of spending the business relief funds on personal expenses including a vehicle, vacations and cosmetic procedures

<p>Muskogee County Sheriff

Muskogee County Sheriff's Office (2)

Jon and Carie Hallford

The married owners of a Colorado funeral home accused of improperly storing 190 decaying bodies are facing new charges on accusations they spent nearly $900,000 in COVID-19 relief funds on personal expenses, authorities said.

Jon Hallford, 44, and Carie Hallford, 47, each face 13 counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with the alleged scheme, according to an April 15 press release shared by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado.

According to the Associated Press, the couple are set to be arraigned on Thursday. Carie’s attorney, Chaz Melihercik, declined to comment when reached by PEOPLE on Tuesday. PEOPLE couldn’t immediately get in touch with an attorney representing Jon.

The owners of Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose, Colo., are accused of using $882,300 in pandemic relief loans meant to support small businesses on items such as “a vehicle, multiple vacations, entertainment, dining, tuition for a minor child, cryptocurrency, cosmetic medical procedures, jewelry,” and merchandise from Amazon, the indictment reviewed by PEOPLE states.

Related: Married Owners of Colo. Funeral Home Charged After Nearly 200 Decaying Bodies Were Recovered

“From on or about March 30, 2020, through on or about October 20, 2021, the HALLFORDS worked together to prepare and submit loan documentation to the SBA which contained materially false representations,” the indictment alleges. 

During the application process, the couple allegedly falsely stated they were “not engaged in any illegal activity” and that neither of them were “more than 60 days delinquent on child support obligations” which the indictment alleges was a false claim with respect to Jon.

The Hallfords — who were arrested in November 2023 in Oklahoma — also face felony charges of abuse of a corpse, theft, money laundering and forgery in connection with the October 2023 discovery of 190 decaying bodies that had allegedly been improperly stored in the facility, PEOPLE previously reported. 

<p>Parker Seibold/The Gazette via AP</p> Return to Nature Funeral Home.

Parker Seibold/The Gazette via AP

Return to Nature Funeral Home.

Authorities said residents in the area reported an odor emanating from the facility, which prompted the search. The release states that some of the dates on the bodies listed deaths dating back to 2019.

According to the AP, the couple have not yet entered pleas to the state charges.

In the federal indictment, which was filed on April 10, the Hallfords are also accused of collecting more than $130,000 from families for cremation or burial services they never provided and filing false death certificates.

The indictment further alleges that there were several instances when the Hallfords “provided the decedent’s family members, friends, or the designated next-of-kin with an urn filled with dry concrete mix instead of the actual cremains of the deceased.” The couple also allegedly gave the wrong body for cemetery burial on at least two occasions, according to the indictment.

Related: At Least 189 Decaying Bodies Recovered from Colorado Funeral Home, Say Police

Families who spoke with the Associated Press in October 2023 claimed they did not receive identification tags with their loved ones' remains. Some family members believe the ashes of their deceased loved ones had a consistency similar to dry concrete and solidified when mixed with water.

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The indictment states the Hallfords each face 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines if convicted of the federal charges.

In March, the United States Environmental Protection Agency said in a statement that the funeral home is set to be demolished on April 16.

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 agency said.

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