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Columbus man sentenced to 10+ years for running unlicensed funeral businesses

A judge found 41-year-old Shawnte Hardin guilty on 31 counts, including abuse of corpses and representing a funeral director without a license.

LUCAS COUNTY, Ohio — A man convicted of representing a funeral director without a license in four counties across Ohio was sentenced Friday to nearly 12 years in prison. 

The sentencing of 41-year-old Shawnte Hardin comes three weeks after a Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge found him guilty of 31 counts:

  • Eight counts of representation of a funeral director while unlicensed
  • Six counts of abuse of a corpse
  • Four counts of passing bad checks
  • Three counts of failure to file taxes
  • Three counts of tampering with records
  • Two counts of theft
  • Two counts of telecommunications fraud
  • One count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity
  • One count of operating an unlicensed funeral home
  • One count of possessing criminal tools

Authorities said Hardin ran funeral services in Summit, Cuyahoga, Franklin and Lucas counties without having a license. He had pleaded not guilty to various counts, including tampering with records, passing bad checks, identity fraud and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.

Hardin was indicted in October 2021 on 37 charges, ranging from abuse of a corpse to representing as a funeral director while unlicensed.

The investigation was launched when two bodies were taken from Hardin’s Columbus businesses by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation in September.  The Ohio Attorney General’s office said Hardin was using the location for makeshift funeral services.

Hardin's alleged crimes, the prosecution told the judge, involve a criminal enterprise where he promised specific funeral services and didn't deliver. The state argued Hardin performed funeral services only a licensed funeral director can perform. Hardin pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Evidence presented during the bench trial showed that Hardin used the passcodes of funeral directors he was associated with so he could gain access to the Ohio Department of Health's Electronic Death Registration System. That system allows for death certificates to be entered.

Hardin testified that he never impersonated a funeral director, abused corpses or illegally transported bodies. The defense also called witnesses that claim Hardin never presented himself as a funeral director, just someone who knew how to do funerals.

The state said Hardin's crimes happened in several Ohio counties, including Franklin, Lucas, Cuyahoga and Summit. 

The state said he didn't file income tax until the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

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