The now closed O'Donnell & Mulry Funeral Home.
PHOTO BY NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO
The funeral director who is accused of illegally keeping bodies in storage facilities, bilking seniors out of tens of thousands of dollars and giving families the wrong cremated remains is being held on $50,000 bail.
Joseph V. O'Donnell, a 56-year-old undertaker from Dorchester, pleaded not guilty to all 278 counts he was facing at his arraignment in Suffolk Superior Court this morning. Authorities allege O'Donnell illegally operated a funeral home in the city between 2008 and 2013.
He now faces multiple charges of larceny, forgery, embezzlement, improperly disposing of human remains and acting as a funeral director without a license.
Dorchester resident Marilyn Ferrara attended the hearing because one of her friends was among the bodies that O'Donnell is alleged to have mishandled. Her body was found in a Weymouth storage facility.
"It's a disgrace what he did," she said. "Every time he said 'not guilty, not guilty' I got mad, especially when it's so obvious what he did. This was someone you trusted. Everyone thought he was a nice, nice man. He should go away for many, many years."
Ferrara's friend and fellow Dorchester resident Eileen Collins was even more blunt.
"I would like to kick his a--, but they won't let me," said the 73-year-old outside the seventh floor courtroom.
Collins was also friends with one of the deceased who was found in the storage facility and says O'Donnell swindled her out of money. She now needs to once again make her funeral arrangements and pay for them.
Authorities say he managed at least 201 funerals and cremations illegally between 2009 and 2013.
"There could be many more," said Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Walsh.
This morning, O'Donnell stood stoically in the courtroom in a beige suit, blue button-down and paisley tie as Walsh detailed the various charges against him.
O'Donnell allegedly swindled dozens of seniors who were making their arrangements for their funerals before they died and gave families the wrong cremated remains, according to prosecutors.
He also faces 12 counts of improper disposal of human remains for allegedly using a Weymouth storage facility to hold decomposing bodies entrusted to his care. He also faces a slew of fiduciary embezzlement counts for failing to keep funeral pre-payments in a trust.
Additionally, O'Donnell has been indicted on 11 counts for failing to bury the Weymouth bodies after accepting payment to do so. One of the bodies, according to the DA's office, could not be identified and authorities have yet to find records indicating O'Donnell accepted payment for cremation or burial.
O'Donnell is also alleged to have falsifying death certificates and medical examiner certificates.
O'Donnell's license to practice as a funeral director lapsed in late 2008. Between 2009 and the foreclosure of his funeral home in 2013, the DA's office alleges he played a role in at least 201 funerals, burials and cremations.
He also swindled a collection of seniors who were making funeral arrangements before they died by taking 31 advance payments, totalling $149,096.22 That money should have been placed in a trust, but O'Donnell did not do that, telling prosecutors "It's all gone."
He swindled a collection of seniors who were making funeral arrangements before they died by taking 31 advance payments, totalling $149,096.22 That money should have been placed in a trust, but O'Donnell did not do that, telling prosecutors "It's all gone."
A search of two storage facilities rented by O'Donnell yielded macabre findings.
According to the DA's office, police uncovered 45 sets of cremated remains at a Somerville facility. Many of those remains were decades old are believed to be unclaimed remains previously stored at the now closed Neponset Avenue site. His Weymouth facility had 12 human bodies "in various states of decomposition" and 32 sets of cremated remains.
The families of eight of the deceased found in Weymouth were given ashes belonging to someone other than their loved one. Two sets of those ashes were already scattered by family members, meaning only six can be recovered.
Authorities are still trying to identify an adult female body found at the Weymouth facility.