Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina and Moorestown Township Police Chief Lee R. Lieber announced that three men who were hired by the owner of McChesney Funeral Home to run the business have been charged with stealing more than $1.3 million of company funds over an eight-year period by diverting the money into their personal bank accounts.
Raymond Zale, 60, and Ronald Zale, 58, both of Stratford, and Sean Zale, 32, of Sicklerville, were each charged on Friday with two counts of Theft by Deception (Second Degree).
Ronald and Sean Zale were processed and released on Friday by the Moorestown Township Police Department. Raymond Zale was unable to be processed at that time due to a medical condition.
The case will next be presented to a Burlington County Grand Jury to be considered for indictment.
The investigation revealed that the business arrangement between McChesney Funeral Home and the Zales dates to the 1980s. Raymond and Ronald Zale, who are brothers, were responsible for overseeing the operation of the funeral home, and Sean, who is Raymond’s son, assisted with various tasks, such as driving.
The investigation revealed that from 2008 through 2016, nearly $2.35 million in payments for services that should have gone to the McChesney Funeral Home were diverted into accounts controlled by Raymond, Ronald and Sean Zale.
During that period, payments of just over $1 million were made from the Zale accounts to McChesney Funeral Home in order to keep the business operational. The result is a net diversion from the McChesney Funeral Home by Raymond, Ronald and Sean Zale of $1,315,894.77.
The investigation also confirmed that the McChesney Funeral Home made payments totaling $775,518 to the Zales for their services and expenses during that same period.
The investigation further revealed that funds given by two customers to McChesney for pre-paid funerals were deposited by Raymond Zale into his business and personal accounts.
New Jersey regulations governing the operation of funeral homes require that funds paid for this purpose must be deposited into an interest-bearing trust account on behalf of the customer.
Questions about the management of McChesney Funeral Home began to surface when it ceased doing business in 2016. It was during that year, the investigation revealed, that Raymond and Ronald Zale neglected to file documents with the State Board of Mortuary Science of New Jersey to renew the McChesney license, causing it to lapse and leading to the closure.
The Zale family also owns and operates Eugene Zale Funeral Home in Stratford, NJ; Eichel Funeral Home in Pennsauken, NJ; and Middleton Stroble Zale Funeral Home in Somers Point, NJ.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Prosecutor Andrew McDonnell, supervisor of the BCPO Financial Crimes Unit. The investigation was conducted by detectives from the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office and Moorestown Township Police Department. The lead investigators are BCPO Detective Wayne J. Comegno and Moorestown Township Police Detective Donald Brauckmann.
All persons charged with crimes are presumed innocent until proven otherwise in a court of law.
(Source: Burlington County Prosecutor)