A Lucas County judge has convicted an Ohio man who operated unlicensed funeral service businesses across the state, including in the Columbus area.
Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Michael Goulding found Shawnte Hardin, 42, who has addresses in Columbus and Akron, guilty Friday morning of 31 of 37 charges, including eight counts of impersonating a funeral director, six counts of abusing a corpse and one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a first-degree felony. Goulding found Hardin not guilty of the other six counts.
Goulding heard the case after Hardin waived his right to a jury trial. Goulding is set to sentence Hardin on Aug. 26.
Funeral director charged: Columbus man accused of operating unlicensed funeral businesses indicted on 37 counts
The Ohio Attorney General's Office, which prosecuted the case, accused Hardin of operating several unlicensed businesses in Franklin, Summit, Cuyahoga and Lucas counties. The businesses included Hussain Funeral Directors, Celebration of Life Memorial Chapels, Hardin Funeral Home Inc., American Mortuary Services and Transportation, and Shawnte Davon Hardin Services LLC.
More than 80 cremated remains were found at Akron addres
In September, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation removed two bodies from a vacant storefront it claimed Hardin was using as a makeshift funeral home in the 1600 block of East Livingston Avenue in the Driving Park neighborhood on the Near East Side of Columbus.
Someone called 911 to report a suspicious gray van pulling up and taking a body on a gurney inside the rear of the business. Officers ultimately found two bodies inside the former hair salon, the exterior of which was covered by black tarps in an apparent attempt to block people from seeing inside.
The Ohio Attorney General's Office said more than 80 cremated remains were found in January at Greater Faith Missionary Baptist Church, 825 East Buchtel Ave., Akron. Authorities have identified some of the remains and returned them to family members, however, some are yet to be claimed.
Families whose loved ones might be affected may call the Bureau at 855-BCI-OHIO (855-224-6446).
Jordan Laird is a criminal justice reporter at the Columbus Dispatch. You can reach her at email@example.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @LairdWrites.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio man guilty of fraud, operating unlicensed funeral businesses