Joseph O'DonnellSuffolk County District Attorney's Office

A former undertaker was sentenced to five years in prison for illegally keeping dead bodies in a storage facility, ripping off seniors for thousands of dollars and giving family members the wrong cremated remains.

Joseph O’Donnell plead guilty to stealing $150,000 from clients and storing 12 bodies in a storage facility in Weymouth, among other charges on Wednesday.

O’Donnell ran his grandfather’s funeral home on Neponset Avenue since 1980, but failed to renew his license in 2008. From February 2009 to November 2011, he oversaw the funeral, burial or cremation of at least 201 individuals according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. He also entered pre-needs contracts with clients, many of who were elderly, planned and provided payments for their departed loved ones. Instead of putting those payments into a trust, O’Donnell dumped the money into the funeral home’s personal account.

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During the investigation, authorities got a search warrant for a storage facility in Weymouth where they found 12 decomposing bodies. Officers tracked down the relatives of 11 of the dead, eight of whom were given the cremated remains of someone else.

“My family entrusted you to cremate my mother, which would allow us to spread her ashes at her beloved place, which we did. Knowing that she was free from suffering and in a special place, we felt at peace. That peace was short lived due to your complete and selfish acts. If we hadn’t lived through this nightmare I wouldn’t believe it — one can’t even make this unforgivable act up. The ashes we spread were not those of my mother as her body was rotting away in a storage facility in Weymouth,” the daughter of one victim was quoted in a press release from the DA’s Office. “My family released ashes. We prayed and cried and wished her peace, but it was not my mother we said goodbye to. Do you even know who it was? Or how it haunts me that someone will never get the ashes of their loved one?”

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In all,O’Donnellplead guilty to unlicensed practice of funeral direction, larceny over $250, larceny by scheme, fiduciary embezzlement by scheme — a charge covering the theft of nearly $150,000 from 31 victims — four counts of forgery, four counts of uttering, four counts of common law uttering, four counts of filing a false death certificate, six counts of larceny of over $250 from a disabled person, 11 counts of larceny of over $250 from a person over 60, and 12 counts of improper disposal of a human body.

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