Glasgow funeral staff scammed grieving families

Image caption,
Susan Sherry, Phylis Sharp and Phylis Blackwood must wear electronic tags for four months

Three funeral parlour workers have been given community sentences for defrauded grieving families.

Phylis Sharp, 76, Phylis Blackwood, 59 and Susan Sherry, 46, admitted overcharged various clients at T & R O'Brien, in Maryhill, by about £4,000.

Glasgow Sheriff Court heard they would issue false invoices with inflated prices and pocket the extra cash.

The women, who have since been sacked, were told to carry out unpaid work and wear electronic tags for four months.

The court heard how the fraud took place between April 2008 and March 2011 at the funeral parlour, which is owned by Dignity Funerals.

Mistake noticed

It began when Blackwood suggested the women split £500 that a Chinese family was over-charged in error for a casket.

She initially told Sherry - who had flagged up the mistake to her - to refund the cash, but changed her mind and said they should keep the money.

Procurator fiscal depute Adele MacDonald told the court: "It came to light in about February 2011 that there was some discrepancies and members of staff became suspicious of certain transactions and an inquiry was carried out.

"On February 19, 2011, one of the directors attended at the premises where all three accused were working and at this time he discovered a file within Phylis Blackwood's desk showing some financial irregularities.

"On February 21, the witness interviewed Mrs Blackwood in relation to the contents of the folder and at the time she denied any knowledge of wrongdoing or theft."

Ms MacDonald added that it came to light that a fraudulent scheme had taken place and that some bereaved families, whose custom it was to pay in cash, were being charged more than they should have been for funeral arrangements.

The court was told grieving relatives were each being over-charged by around £500 and the money was divided between the three women.

It was accepted that Sharp came into the scheme later and to the extent of £1,000.

Blackwood, from Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, and Sherry, from Summerston, Glasgow pleaded guilty to carrying out the fraud.

Women 'shamed'

Sharp, from Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire, also admitted her part in the scheme.

Passing sentence, Sheriff Lindsay Wood told them the crime had brought "shame" on them.

He said: "You have spoiled what was previously unblemished lives."

The sheriff added: "Phylis Blackwood, I think you carried more culpability as you were the office manager and in my view that makes it worse."

Blackwood and Sherry were given community service orders for 240 hours and 220 hours respectively and Sharp was ordered to carry out 200 hours.

All three were given tagging orders for four months and must stay in their homes between 21:00 and 06:00.

In a statement a Dignity Funerals spokesman said: "We were shocked and dismayed to discover the criminal activities of three members of our staff.

"When this was brought to our attention by a concerned member of staff they were immediately suspended from their duties and dismissed following our disciplinary processes.

"It has been our priority to make personal contact with each of the families concerned, to apologise to them and provide a full refund."

The spokesman said the firm had co-operated fully during the police investigation and prosecution.

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