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Akron funeral director admits taking prepaid burial funds

An Akron funeral director who was convicted nearly five years ago of embezzling more than $175,000 from an elderly Lancaster widow admitted Monday that he took more than $74,000 in prepaid burial funds from 15 customers. Prosecutors said he used the money to buy cars and fancy clothes.

Under state law, he was required to deposit the funds in trust accounts.

Paris J. Childs, 54, of Eckerson Avenue, former director of Childs Funeral Home, pleaded guilty as charged in State Supreme Court to four counts of third-degree grand larceny and single counts of first-degree falsification of business records and first-degree scheme to defraud.

He also admitted violating the probation sentence he received in January 2010 for embezzling money from the 85-year-old widow over a three-year period.

The thefts of the $74,250 in burial funds occurred between March 22, 2006, and Nov. 18, 2013, according to Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III.

Sedita said Childs’ conduct was especially disturbing because he used his position as a funeral director to take advantage of the most vulnerable people – the elderly and people going through the grieving process.

Justice Russell P. Buscaglia set sentencing for July 1 and ordered Childs sent back to the Erie County Holding Center without bail in line with a request from Assistant District Attorney Candace K. Vogel.

Vogel told the judge that as a second felony offender, Childs faces mandatory prison time. She also said that when state police were trying to locate him on a warrant last month, he fled and was eventually found and arrested in a parking lot.

His attorney, Leonard D. Zaccagnino, asked the judge to release his client on bail so that he could take care of family and personal matters.

He said his client plans to sell the funeral home. After the plea, Vogel said that if Childs finds a buyer for the funeral home, the money will go to pay off his mortgage on the property.

“None of that money will go into his pocket,” she said.

Childs faces 3½ to seven years in prison on the grand larceny charges and two to four years on the falsification and scheme charges. The judge indicated those sentences would run concurrently.

Childs also faces two to six years in prison for the probation violation. The judge said that sentence would run consecutively to the others.

As a result, Childs faces a total of 5½ to 13 years in prison.

The judge said that if any other cases of Childs having victimized funeral home customers come to light before sentencing, he will be ordered to make additional restitution.

If more cases come up after sentencing, he will face additional charges.

In the embezzlement case, Childs was sentenced by Buscaglia in 2010 to six months in jail and five years’ probation.

Childs had pleaded guilty in October 2009 to third-degree grand larceny for taking the widow’s money from 2006 through 2009 after he got her to grant him power of attorney following her husband’s death. She died in September 2009.

In addition, Buscaglia revoked Childs’ state funeral director’s license for five years.

In November 2012, Buscaglia ruled that Childs could reapply for his license, but he was not allowed to deal directly with his customers’ money.

Childs’ attorney at sentencing said his client had repaid the $175,000 to the widow’s estate.