Funeral scam artist pleads guilty to fraud charges

One of two women accused of staging fake funerals to defraud insurance companies out of nearly $1 million pleaded guilty today to wire fraud.

Faye Shilling, 61, of Hawthorne, pleaded guilty before U.S. District
Judge Dean D. Pregerson to two counts of wire fraud, which carries a maximum
sentence of 40 years behind bars, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Shilling and co-defendant Jean Crump, 68, of Los Angeles, were set to go
on trial Tuesday in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles.

Trial for Crump on five counts of mail and wire fraud is still on schedule.

According to a federal grand jury indictment from last year, the women allegedly collected almost $1 million from insurance and lending companies by purchasing policies for non-existent people, killing them off on paper and then staging their funerals.

Shilling, a nurse phlebotomist, and Crump, who worked at a now-defunct Long Beach mortuary, allegedly filled caskets with various materials to make it appear they contained actual corpses.

After the funerals, the women and their associates allegedly filed bogus documents with the county saying the remains had been cremated and scattered at sea, prosecutors said.

The insurance policies were worth $50,000 to $450,000, and the women collected on some as large as $250,000, officials said.

The indictment also alleges that Crump offered a medical doctor $50,000 to create records supporting a fake death certificate.

Shilling and Crump also allegedly defrauded several lending companies that advance cash to cover funeral expenses in exchange for a portion of the decedent's life insurance policy.

The women have been free on $10,000 bonds. Shilling is set to be sentenced Nov. 1. If convicted of the five counts contained in the indictment, Crump faces up to 100 years in federal prison.

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