COLUMBUS, Ohio — An Ohio man accused of running an unlicensed funeral business throughout the state was found guilty on multiple counts by a Lucas County judge on Friday.
Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Michael Goulding ruled that Shawnte Hardin was found guilty on 31 charges:
- 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 operating an unlicensed funeral home
- One count of possessing criminal tools
In October 2021, Hardin was indicted on 37 charges, ranging from abuse of a corpse to representing as a funeral director while unlicensed.
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.
Hardin operated businesses during the past couple of years under names such as Hussain Funeral Directors and Celebration of Life Memorial Chapels, according to the Ohio attorney general’s office, which is prosecuting the case.
He also was a pastor at Greater Faith Missionary Baptist Church in Akron, the Akron Beacon Journal reported. The state said more than 80 remains were found in the church.
Hardin is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 26.