Los Angeles funeral home owner illegally left the remains of 11 people, including infants, in stages of decay and mummification and faces more than a decade in jail, prosecutors said Friday.
Authorities opened an investigation into the Mark B Allen Mortuary and Cremations Services Inc., after receiving complaints from families. The mortuary, owned by Mark B Allen, is now closed and phone numbers listed for the business were disconnected.
City attorney Mike Feuer, whose office can only file misdemeanor offenses, announced the charges Friday, calling it an “incredibly sad and shocking situation” and said that officials could smell the odor from outside the San Fernando Valley facility.
Eleven people died, including very young children, and the funeral director hired to compassionately prepare the bodies for burial allegedly just let them rot, with neither the decency nor the dignity that all our loved ones deserve,” Feuer said in a statement. “Their deaths are one tragedy, and this alleged monstrous mistreatment is a second tragedy.”
According to case documents reviewed by the Los Angeles Times, authorities launched an investigation into the funeral home after clients filed several claims, stating that the mortuary had not released the remains of their relatives to them.
Upon initial investigation, authorities found that five bodies were improperly stored in conditions that were too warm, which accelerated their decomposition.
According to a petition to suspend Allen’s license, further investigation by bureau investigators and the Los Angeles police revealed that an additional six bodies were emitting “foul and overwhelming” odors and were attracting flies, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Under California’s Health and Safety Code, “every person who deposits or disposes of any human remains in any place, except in a cemetery, is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
It was not immediately clear whether Allen has an attorney who can speak on his behalf. He faces 22 misdemeanor charges – two for each person – from the state’s Health and Safety Code. The second statute that Allen faces is disposing of remains illegally through his role as a funeral director. The maximum penalty is $110,000 and 11 years in jail.
“There’s been nothing like this since I’ve been city attorney … and we’ve prosecuted more than 300,000 cases,” Feuer said on Friday.
Funeral homes that mistreat human remains have made headlines for years. Funeral home regulations vary across the US, with some states requiring annual inspections and several requiring no inspections at all.
In one of the most extreme cases, more than 330 decaying corpses were found in 2002 in the Tri-State Crematory near the tiny community of Noble, about 100 miles (161 km) northwest of Atlanta. The former operator pleaded guilty to nearly 800 criminal charges related to fraud and corpse abuse after the bodies were found.