Interestingly, all four of those charged were women: Crump, mortuary operator Lydia Pearce (35), Phlebotemist Faye Shilling (61) who assisted with filing the insurance forms and Notary Barbara Ann Lynn (64), who faked the documents in the case. Financial assignment companies — which advance mortuaries money for funeral and burial costs against a share of the decedent’s insurance payments — figured prominently in the scam.
In one example, Crump’s band purchased life insurance policies for one “Jim Davis” (whose corpulent cat was surely bereaved), naming a fake nephew and niece as beneficiaries. When Mr. Davis “bought the big tamale,” a forged death certificate was produced, as were forged documents for inflated charges to the mortuary operated by Pearce. The fictitious Mr. Davis’s fictitious “nephew” received $230,000 from the insurance company. As the site explains, the arrangements then got far more elaborate:
The criminals went so far as to purchase a burial plot for Mr. Davis and bury him, without a headstone. But despite the extravagant funeral described on paper for the financial assignment companies—including an ornate casket and elaborate floral arrangements—the funeral was a simple affair, attended by several phony family members recruited to play the part of mourners in case anyone was watching.
…Two insurance companies began looking more closely at the claims and hired an investigator to ask questions. The con artists were so unnerved by this that they had the coffin supposedly holding the remains of Jim Davis unearthed. They filled the casket with a mannequin and cow parts to ensure the proper weight and then sent it to a crematory. Then, they filed phony paperwork stating that he had been cremated and had his ashes scattered over the Pacific Ocean.
The FBI press release on the case says that while Crump’s jury could not reach a verdict on two mail fraud charges on a related 2004 case, the charges she was convicted of carry a combined statutory maximum of 90 years in prison. All three other defendants pleaded guilty; the only one to be sentenced so far was Lynn, who got a year of home detention within three years of probation.