Hallfords Return to Jail on Federal Charges Amid Return To Nature Facility Demolition

Funeral Industry News April 23, 2024
Return to Nature Building in Penrose CO

Hallfords Return to Jail on Federal Charges Amid Return To Nature Facility Demolition

While bulldozers were plowing down the Penrose, Colorado building where 190 decomposing bodies were found in October 2023, the facility’s owners were in court facing a new round of charges. 

Jon and Carrie Hallford, the former owners of the Return to Nature “green” funeral home, were arrested by FBI agents last Sunday, and appeared in Colorado federal district court on Thursday, April 18. The couple pleaded not guilty to federal wire fraud charges for allegedly receiving nearly $900,000 in pandemic relief funds from the U.S. government. Two days earlier, demolition began at the site where the Hallford’s egregious acts were uncovered. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates the demo will be completed in 10 days.

Flight risks

Although Jon and Carie Hallford were each released on $100,000 bond in January and February, respectively, they were deemed “elevated flight risks” this time around. The federal judge remanded Jon Hallford into federal custody; his wife will also be held in custody until space is available in a halfway house. 

The Hallfords were first arrested in November 2023 in Oklahoma after fleeing Colorado a month earlier. They were located at the home of Jon Hallford’s parents and were eventually transported back to an El Paso County, Colorado jail. 

It has been reported that since bonding out on state criminal charges of abuse of a corpse, money laundering, theft, and fraud, the Hallfords had been living in a Colorado Springs hotel and working as DoorDash drivers. They have still not entered pleas in response to those original charges.

New details emerge

The federal indictment accuses the Hallfords of fraudulently misrepresenting Return to Nature when they applied for relief funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The indictment says the Hallfords falsified information on their loan documents about their eligibility for funds.

According to these federal documents, the couple used the funds they received — in addition to roughly $130,000 they received as payment from families for cremation services that were never provided — to fund their lavish lifestyles instead of paying their business expenses, many of which were in arrears.

The FBI found that the Hallfords spent over $120,000 on new vehicles (a GMC Yukon and an Infiniti) and  $31,000 on cryptocurrency, laser body sculpting, and shopping at luxury stores like Gucci and Tiffany. In addition, they vacationed in California, Florida, and Las Vegas, paid school tuition for a minor child, and purchased “various goods and merchandise from Amazon.”

Texts show true intentions

The federal case also brought new information to light about the Hallford’s attitudes and behavior before the bodies — some of which were thought to have been cremated three years earlier — were discovered. 

Prosecutors presented excerpts from texts exchanged between Jon and Carie Hallford in 2020 that proved they were very well aware that their actions were despicable — and illegal. In those texts, Jon Hallford explains that his priority — his “one and only focus” — was not getting caught. He also pitches a few ideas for disposing of the bodies in a mass grave or pyre and leaving the town of Penrose.

Demo and disinfection

Before demolition of the Penrose Return to Nature facility could begin, the EPA had to apply a disinfectant inside the building and spray down the building with water to keep dust contained. When the building has been demolished and the concrete foundation removed, the EPA will test the soil for remaining biohazards. Debris will be taken to a landfill in a neighboring county.