Man says he was wronged by funeral director

Fred Armstrong's father passed away November 18 at the age of 81. That same month, Armstrong thought funeral director Benjamin Siar Jr. gave him the cremated remains.

Officials now say that was not the case.

“I was very upset, very mad,” Armstrong said. “What he did was flat-out wrong.”

Authorities on Thursday filed additional charges against Siar, a former Lancaster County funeral director, who is already facing trial for abusing corpses and stealing from clients.

Siar, 42, was charged this week with three felony counts each of theft by deception and fraudulent business practices, and one felony count each of attempted theft and attempted fraud.

According to the criminal complaint, cremated remains of three people were found in February and March at the Gundel Funeral Home in Conestoga and at Siar's temporary home on St. Joseph Street, where he had moved property and business records after his eviction from the Gundel Funeral Home in Lancaster.

The remains were those of people who had made preplanned funeral arrangements with Gundel Funeral Home and had died between August 24 and November 18.

At each funeral service, Siar presented families with an urn purported to contain the cremated remains of their loved ones, but in each instance the deceased had not yet been cremated, according to the complaint.

Siar was paid a total of nearly $8,000 for the three funeral services.

In one case, Gundel Funeral Home allegedly billed a client's nursing home trust account more than $2,500, even though the funeral expenses had already been paid by their life insurance company.

According to the charging documents, Siar told the client's family that he knew the funeral had been paid, but sent the bill anyway with the intention of giving the money to the family.

A preliminary hearing on the latest charges was scheduled for July 22.

Siar was arrested February 1 after authorities said he was paid more than $13,000 by four other families for funeral and cremation services that were never provided.

Investigators who searched the Gundel Funeral Home in Conestoga in late January said they found remains in various stages of decomposition on a basement table, in an inoperable cooling unit, and in a cardboard box in the garage.

According to prosecutors, one of the bodies was that of a 2-year-old Lancaster girl who was the victim of a homicide, while the other remains were those of elderly women who had died since December 20.

Siar initially was charged with four counts each of abuse of a corpse and theft by deception.

In April, he was arraigned on 75 additional counts including 40 counts of theft and 19 counts of fraud.

At the time, authorities said business records seized from Gundel Funeral Home indicated Siar had stolen more than $178,000 from 31 clients over the last four years.

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