Wanted funeral director says he will turn himself in

Posted on: 10:13 pm, December 7, 2012, by , updated on: 10:26pm, December 7, 2012

DENVER — A former Greeley funeral owner wanted by police says he will turn himself in.

Suspect Paul Acuna told us by Facebook he’ll be in police custody Monday.

The 43-year-old is accused of theft and fraud for allegedly taking off with money meant to cover pre-paid funerals of several families.

Now, another family says he took off with something far more valuable than money.

They say he took off with the cremated remains of their mother.

The birth of a child is a joyous time.

“It’s sad. She adored my oldest two,” says Angelia Ballard, about her mother, Lucketta Ballard.

But at this home, death preoccupies their thoughts.

“It’s disheartening that somebody would take someone’s love one and just disappear with them,” says Martin Swenson, Angelia’s husband.

Lucketta passed away a year-and-a-half ago.

Sad thing is, they don’t know where her remains are.

“The state ended up helping pay for her cremation. Unfortunately, there was still a balance due on there and I couldn’t pay it,” says Angelia.

So funeral owner, Acuna kept the remains until the balance was paid off.

But when they did get the money, Acuna was gone, and so were Lucketta’s ashes.

“So I came home and sent him a message on Facebook.”

He responded: “…I considered her remains abandoned. I took her to California with me. Her remains are now in the custody of the Riverside Police Department…”

“When we called Riverside Police they said there was nothing there,” says Stewart.

Acuna claims he put her in storage, but he lost the unit.

“I know I’d taken long time to pick up remains. But I felt like he had disrespected my mother,” says Angelia.

Acuna wrote to us on Facebook: “I’m not on the run. Turning myself in on Monday…Just know my heart was in the right place. Just not good accounting. I hope to pay these families back some day. Some are friends of mine.”

Ballard hopes he’s true to his word—so she can keep hers.

“I just can’t fulfill that promise to her without having them. I mean she requested I spread some of them in her hometown,” says Angelia.

The rest they’ll keep in their home, next to Ballard’s dad.

“We have an urn up there with him in it. I think the goal was just to get her back,” says Stewart.

The couple is now waiting on a call from the coroner’s office in Riverside about the remains.

Greeley Police say they have been in touch with Acuna and he’s agree to meet them when he gets back to town.

Acuna is accused of stealing from four victims—as well as defrauding the Department of Human Services. DHS helps the indigent pay for up to $1,500 of funeral expenses. But funeral businesses are not allowed to charge families more than $2,500 total for services. It’s suspected Acuna did charge families more.

Police say Acuna stole nearly $15,000 from the four victims and more than $12,000 from DHS.