Judge finds Ohio man guilty of operating makeshift makeshift funeral homes

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A shop window on Livingston Avenue in Driving Park where two bodies were removed by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation in connection with a state investigation into an illegal funeral operation.

A Lucas County judge has convicted an Ohio man who operated unlicensed funeral homes across the state, including the Columbus area.

Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Michael Goulding found Shawnte Hardin, 42, who has addresses in Columbus and Akron, Friday morning on 31 of 37 charges, including eight counts of impersonating a funeral director, six counts of misusing a corpse and one count of involvement in a pattern of corrupt activity, a first-degree felony. Goulding found Hardin not guilty of the other six charges.

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Goulding heard the case after Hardin waived his right to a jury trial. Goulding will sentence Hardin on August 26.

Funeral Director charged: Columbus man charged with operating unlicensed funeral homes, charged on 37 counts

The Ohio Attorney General’s office, which was prosecuting the case, accused Hardin of operating several unlicensed businesses in Franklin, Summit, Cuyahoga and Lucas counties. The companies include Hussain Funeral Directors, Celebration of Life Memorial Chapels, Hardin Funeral Home Inc., American Mortuary Services and Transportation and Shawnte Davon Hardin Services LLC.

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More than 80 cremated remains were found at the address of Akron

In September, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation removed two bodies from a vacant storefront that Hardin claimed to be using as a makeshift funeral home on the 1600 block of East Livingston Avenue in the Driving Park neighborhood on the Near East Side of Columbus.

This contributed photo from the Ohio Attorney General's office shows what it calls an unlicensed funeral home in a storage facility in Gahanna.

This contributed photo from the Ohio Attorney General’s office shows what it calls an unlicensed funeral home in a storage facility in Gahanna.

someone called 911 to report a suspicious gray van that stopped and took a body on a stretcher in the back of the business. Officers eventually found two bodies in the former hair salon, the outside of which was covered in black tarpaulin in an apparent attempt to prevent people from seeing inside.

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The Ohio Attorney General’s office said more than 80 cremated remains were found in January at the Greater Faith Missionary Baptist Church, 825 East Buchtel Ave., Akron. Authorities have identified some of the remains and returned them to relatives, but some have yet to be claimed.

Families whose loved ones may be affected can call the Office at 855-BCI-OHIO (855-224-6446).

Jordan Laird is a criminal justice reporter with the Columbus Dispatch. You can reach her at [email protected]. You can follow her on Twitter at @LairdWrites.

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: An Ohio Man Guilty of Fraud and Operating Unlicensed Funeral Homes

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