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CEMETERY WORKERS CHARGED

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Search for disinterred remains to begin

Thursday, July 9, 2009 — Bond will be set today for four people arrested by the Cook County Sheriff’s Police in connection with a scheme that preyed on mourners at Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois, announced Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart.

   Hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash is alleged to have been stolen, cemetery plots double-sold or double-stacked, and numerous remains unearthed as a result of this scheme.

   In late May, the owners of Burr Oak Cemetery, who are based in Arizona, contacted detectives in the Financial Crimes Unit of the Cook County Sheriff’s Police after discovering a large discrepancy in their books.   Subsequent interviews with other cemetery employees revealed an elaborate scheme that spans several years, involves the digging up of numerous graves, re-selling those plots and the identification of an unused area of the cemetery where remains have allegedly been dumped.

   The cemetery’s manager and three gravediggers participated in this scheme, although more people may be charged as the investigation progresses.  Gravesites chosen were extremely old and appeared to not have regular visitors.  They were then dug up and resold to unsuspecting customers.  When preparing the site for a funeral, the gravediggers would dig up the plot, many times breaking the vault or casket.  When this occurred, they would remove the remains and dump them in the back area of the cemetery.  The funeral would take place, with the deceased being buried on top of what remained. The money paid would be split between the workers involved.

   “The greedy acts of a few individuals have disturbed the resting places of many individuals and will no doubt cause emotional distress to their family members,” Sheriff Dart said.  “We will do our best to expedite this recovery effort and with the assistance of local clergy, properly and finally lay to rest all those who were unearthed.  We ask the public to remain respectful and patient during this time.”

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