Owners of Colorado funeral home where decaying bodies were found charged with COVID fraud

The owners of a Colorado Springs funeral home have been indicted on federal charges including fraud related to COVID relief funds. Authorities say they failed to cremate or bury at least 190 bodies they were paid to handle dating back to at least 2019, according to court documents unsealed Monday.

Jon and Carie Hallford, who owned Return to Nature Funeral Home in the Penrose area of Colorado Springs, were indicted on 15 charges brought by a federal grand jury in Colorado District Court. The indictment brought back previous accusations that the Hallfords gave families dry concrete instead of ashes, collected more than $130,000 from families for cremations and burials they never performed and buried the wrong body on at least two occasions.

The indictment states that the couple misused over $880,000 in COVID relief funds by "misrepresenting the fact that Jon Hallford owed back child support and by claiming that their business was not engaged in criminal activity at the time they applied for COVID-19 relief funds.", a press release for the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Colorado states. The indictment also alleges that the pair used the money to operate their business.

The new charges are in addition to the hundreds of felonies the Hallfords are already facing in Colorado, including abusing corpses, theft, money laundering and forgery. They are also facing lawsuits from many of the families that hired Return to Nature.

The federal offenses can bring potential penalties of $250,000 in fines and 20 years in prison, according to the court documents.

Couple charged: Nearly 200 bodies removed from Colorado funeral home accused of improperly storing bodies

What happened at Return to Nature Funeral Home?

Authorities began investigating the Colorado funeral home in October 2023 after neighbors reported the putrid smell of decaying bodies, which investigators say Jon Hallford falsely attributed to his taxidermy hobby.

The EPA has concluded the building itself is too full of "biohazards" to ever be reused, and has scheduled an estimated 10-day demolition to begin Wednesday.

Contributing: Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Return to Nature Funeral Home owners indicted on COVID fraud charges