Funeral director jailed after she defrauded grieving families out of more than £15,500

Sharon Howell preyed on mourners who purchased funeral plans by duplicating their card details and taking their money

Sharon Howell, 50, “took advantage” of mourners who purchased plans at her Manchester funeral business

A funeral director who defrauded grieving families out of more than £15,500 has been jailed for two years.

Sharon Howell, 50, “took advantage” of mourners who purchased plans at her Manchester funeral business by duplicating their credit card details and pocketing their cash.

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Police began investigating Howell in February 2019 after customers complained of “poor service” and “irregular payments” at Kenworthy Funeral Directors, Tameside, where she worked.

They later discovered that Howell, who was the funeral manager, had used “merchant copies” of payment receipts to manually input her victims’ card details into her machine between January 8 and March 14, 2019.

This allowed the heartless director to repeat bereaved customers’ transactions when they were not present, and withdraw their money without using their pin numbers.

Howell sentenced to two years one month

Howell, from Oldham, pleaded guilty in November 2020 to six trading standards offences relating to a lack of professional diligence in the course of her employment as a funeral director.

She also pleaded guilty in October 2021 to six counts of fraud by false representation.

She was sentenced at Minshull Street Crown Court to two years and one month behind bars.

Detective Sergeant Clare Smith, of Greater Manchester Police, said Howell “took advantage” of her victims and said her jail term was wholly justified.

She said: “Sharon Howell took advantage of people who were grieving the loss of a loved one.

“It is only right that she is served with a prison sentence so that she can think long and hard about the consequences of her actions.”

‘Families were caused a lot of distress’

Tameside council executive member Cllr Allison Gwynne, responsible for enforcement and bereavement services, added that it was correct to punish her “unscrupulous” actions.

She said: “This case followed an investigation by our bereavement services and business compliance teams, who were proactive in spotting anomalies and taking robust action, working closely with the police.

“We will always work hard to ensure businesses are fulfilling their obligations to consumers and upholding standards – particularly so in industries such as this where the work is sensitive, bereaved families are involved and so much relies on trust.

“The families involved were caused a lot of distress because of the actions of the defendant, at what was already a difficult time when they were grieving.

“We will not hesitate in taking action against unscrupulous individuals or businesses and we are pleased to see this positive result in court.”

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