Putnam County funeral home owner sentenced on insurance fraud

Chad R. Harding, right, an owner of Harding Funeral Home, was accused of three counts of fraud claims to an insurance company. His attorney, David Moye is standing to the left of Harding. (WCHS/WVAH)

A Putnam County funeral home director is heading to prison for insurance fraud. Chad Harding was sentenced to three to 30 years for cashing in on pre-need funeral policies before the person had actually died.

"Today your honor, I ask that you have mercy on me," said Harding, owner of Gatens-Harding Funeral Home in Poca, standing before a Putnam County court for sentencing. "It's been an embarrassment upon my family, my wife, my parents, my in-laws and all my friends and our community."

Prosecutors said Harding, who pleaded guilty to three counts of insurance fraud, received more than $900,000 from filing false claims for funeral services against more than 100 people who purchased pre-need policies with Homesteaders Life Company of Iowa. The problem is those people were still alive.

"Mr. Harding's attorney talked about these being advances. These were not advances. These were false insurance claims," said Tracy Whitaker, vice president of legal compliance and assistant general counsel for Homesteaders Life Company.

Harding said he knew his actions were not right.

"I got in over my head and didn't know what to do and that was the only thing I knew to do," Harding said.

Ramona Hickman and her husband purchased a pre-need policy from Harding and were part of the group victimized when Harding filed a false claim.

"We've always trusted them. When I found out that, I was really heartbroken," Hickman said.

Elizabeth Thompson and her husband also were victimized by the false claims filed by Harding.

"This is hurting me, because I'm supposed to be dead, because I was the first he cashed in on and not knowing it," Thompson said.

Dozens of friends, family and even victims of Harding packed the courtroom. With sentencing out of the way, attorneys will return to court in a few weeks to talk about restitution. Harding could be eligible for parole in three years.

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