Consumer Alert: Employee's embezzlement nearly puts funeral home out of business

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Randy Sanderson was hired to figure out why a well-known funeral home was struggling financially.

"Something wasn't adding up and it was suspected the operations manager may have been stealing funds," Sanderson says.

Those suspicions were correct. All signs led to Debora Kellom. She was in charge of the funeral home and told employees she was the owner. The truth is the funeral home was owned by an Arizona-based corporation called Perpetua. Sanderson says the company rarely had any presence at the funeral home.

"She decided to go into the cookie jar and take what she could, " says Sanderson. "This was really an example of absentee ownership gone bad."

Despite her six figure income, Sanderson learned Kellom felt underpaid.

"She used that as somewhat of an excuse that if you're not going to increase my pay than I will do some of these other things to the company," says Sanderson.

Kellom admitted to stealing $275,000 and spent the money on herself and her family.

"To private school for her daughter, to buying expensive clothing and accessories for herself, we found she took trips and paid for a family reunion using company money," says U.S. Postal Inspector Dan Taylor.

Postal inspectors started looking into the case and brought federal mail fraud charges against her.

"This funeral home was really (this close) to being foreclosed on because of three years of back taxes and that would have meant 20 people out of a job," says Sanderson.

Kellom pleaded guilty to mail fraud for stealing more than $200,000. She faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and paying restitution. Her sentencing is this summer.

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