March 05, 2021
The director of a funeral home in Chester County faces criminal charges for allegedly stealing more than $257,000 from a terminally ill client who had asked for his estate to be donated to local charities.
Kenneth Neeld, 47, the founder of Neeld Family Funeral Care in Malvern, was arrested this week, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said.
In March 2016, Keith Jerome, an 84-year-old Bucks County resident, signed a power of attorney form giving Neeld authority to manage his assets. Neeld is a certified long-term care insurance specialist.
Jerome, who was terminally ill, had directed Neeld to distribute his estate to distribute his financial assets to Amigos de Jesus, Zawadi Fund International and the Coatesville Senior Center after his passing, prosecutors say. Amigos de Jesus and Zawadi Fund International both fund educational programs assisting impoverished children.
In the months leading up to Jerome's death in September 2016, Neeld allegedly stole money from Jerome's estate by transferring money directly to his own bank accounts.
According to prosecutors, Neeld used the funds to pay his own personal bills, including the cost of a vacation home rental, federal income taxes, state income taxes, local taxes, real estate taxes, an orthodontist bill, a veterinary bill, auto repair bills, auto insurance premiums, credit card bills, EZ pass bills and parking tickets.
Prosecutors also say Neeld transferred ownership of Jerome's car to himself, charged Jerome's insurance company for a funeral that Neeld never performed, forged a document suggesting Jerome owed Neeld money that he'd already stolen, and provided false information on the Jerome estate tax return in order to conceal his thefts.
To facilitate his thefts, Neeld also allegedly led another insurance company to believe that Jerome was still alive.
In total, Neeld is accused of stealing $257,916.61 from the charities that were the sole beneficiaries of Jerome's will.
Neeld faces felony counts for theft, forgery, insurance fraud and related charges.