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Former funeral director jailed for defrauding grieving victims

Howell duplicated debit or credit card transactions from grieving victims and defrauded them out of £15,500.

Greater Manchester Police has announced that Sharon Howell, the former funeral manager of Kenworthy Funeral Directors in Ashton-under-Lyne, Tameside, has been jailed for two years and one month after defrauding her grieving victims out of over £15,500.

Howell reportedly pleaded guilty in November 2020 to six trading standards offences relating to “a lack of professional diligence in the course of her employment as a funeral director”.

Additionally, Howell pleaded guilty in October 2021 to six counts of fraud by false representation. This week, she was sentenced at Minshull Street Crown Court to two years and one month behind bars.

The court heard Howell had duplicated debit or credit card transactions from customers. She had reportedly used the merchant copy of the payment receipts to manually input the card details into her machine. 

Greater Manchester Police said this allowed her to repeat the transaction as a ‘customer not present’ transaction, meaning no PIN was required to make the payment.

A joint investigation with Tameside Trading Standards and Greater Manchester Police began in February 2019 following complaints of poor service and irregular payments from customers of Kenworthy Funeral Directors.

Clare Smith, detective sergeant of GMP Tameside’s CID division, said: “Sharon Howell took advantage of people who were grieving the loss of a loved one.

“It is only right that she is served with a prison sentence so that she can think long and hard about the consequences of her actions.”

Allison Gwynne, Tameside Council executive member councillor, who is responsible for enforcement and bereavement services, said: “This case followed an investigation by our bereavement services and business compliance teams, who were proactive in spotting anomalies and taking robust action, working closely with the police.

“The families involved were caused a lot of distress because of the actions of the defendant, at what was already a difficult time when they were grieving.”

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