9 Testify in Alleged Funeral Home Scam
Michigan – The former owners of a defunct Livonia funeral home waived their preliminary examinations, but nine people listed as victims in an alleged scam connected to the Canton couple testified in Livonia?s 16th District Court today.
The nine elderly men and women described how they prepaid for their funerals or cremations but in almost all of the cases had received no money from the couple after troubles were exposed at the former Ziomek Funeral Home on Wayne Road. Prosecutors said they wanted to record the testimony of the most medically fragile of the victims in case they would be unable to testify at a later date.
Christopher and Nancy Ziomek, both 54, are accused of stealing approximately $250,000 from as many as 60 families between 1998 and 2007. They are charged with embezzlement and converting money from prepaid funeral contracts to their own use.
District Judge Sean Kavanagh sent the case to Wayne County Circuit Court, where an arraignment is scheduled for Nov. 24. The couple remain free on bond.
The victims all described similar encounters with the Ziomeks. They said they paid fees ranging from hundreds of dollars to more than $14,000 for funeral or cremation services.
Bernard Farrell, who did not provide an age or address, said he and his wife met with Christopher Ziomek in February 2005 to make arrangements for their funerals. He said they paid $13,000.
When Theodore Empson, a Livonia attorney representing Christopher Ziomek, asked Farrell why he did not try to get his money back after learning that the funeral home was having problems, he said there was no point in getting into an argument.
?I thought they was good, sweet people to be honest with you,? Farrell said.
The case against the Ziomeks began in 2007 after a victim contacted investigators. Detective Dean Langley said he discovered that the Ziomeks? registration with the state to sell prepaid funeral services was suspended in 1999.
The prosecutor in the case, Thomas Wenzel, deputy chief of the special victim?s unit at the Wayne County Prosecutor?s Office, said he can only speculate as to what happened to the money the Ziomeks are accused of stealing.
Empson, the attorney, said the decision to waive the examination was made for strategic reasons.
?We are maintaining a position of innocence,? he said.
Photo: Defendants Nancy and Christopher Ziomek appear before Judge Sean Kavanagh today in 16th District Court in Livonia. (PATRICIA BECK/Detroit Free Press)
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