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Rip-Off Alert: Embezzlement nearly kills funeral home

Reported by: Marie Mortera
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Updated: 5/23/2013 5:07 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV -- In this Rip-Off Alert, an embezzlement scheme involves one main culprit.

However, the crime came very close to impacting many others who could have all lost their jobs.

Randy Sanderson was hired as the chief financial officer for a well-known funeral home to figure out why it was struggling financially.

"She decided to go into the cookie jar and take what she could," Sanderson said. "Something wasn't adding up, and it was suspected the operations manager may have been stealing funds."

Those suspicions were correct. All signs led to Debora Kellom, who was not only in charge of the funeral home but even told employees she was the owner.

"So, if she took money out of the cash register from the floral shop, she was the owner, nobody really said anything,” Sanderson said.

The truth is the funeral home was owned by an Arizona-based corporation called Perpetua. Sanderson says the company rarely had any presence at the funeral home.

"This was really an example of absentee ownership gone bad," Sanderson said.

Despite her six-figure income, Kellom -- Sanderson learned -- felt she was underpaid.

"She used that as somewhat of an excuse that if you're not going to increase my pay than I will do some of these other things to the company," Sanderson said.

Kellom admitted to stealing $275,000 and spent the money on herself and her family.

"To private school for her daughter, to buying expensive clothing and accessories for herself, we found she took trips and paid for a family reunion using company money," said U.S. Postal Inspector Dan Taylor.

Postal inspectors started looking into the case and brought federal mail fraud charges against her.

"This funeral home was really (this close) to being foreclosed on because of three years of back taxes, and that would have meant 20 people out of a job," Sanderson said.

Kellom pleaded guilty to mail fraud for stealing and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and paying restitution.

Her sentencing is this summer.


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