William J. O’Leary ran his family’s funeral home in Springfield, Delaware County, for nine years, netting nearly $900,000 in business. But that money, which clients entrusted to him to put into escrow for their loved ones’ expected burials, was put directly into his personal bank account, according to county investigators.
In a scheme assisted by his girlfriend, the now-65-year-old O’Leary embezzled the money from the O’Leary Funeral Home, District Attorney Katayoun M. Copeland said Monday. The Drexel Hill resident was arrested Monday and charged with theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception, receiving stolen property, deceptive business practices, and related offenses.
He was released on $500,000 unsecured bail, court records show. There was no indication Monday that O’Leary had hired an attorney, and he did not return a request for comment.
O’Leary hid his alleged theft by forging documents from Beneficial Bank, including faked signatures of bank employees, according to investigators. Detectives found evidence he had accepted thousands of dollars from families in at least 87 instances, pocketing the checks instead of depositing them into the proper bank accounts.
His theft was uncovered in 2018, when employees of the funeral home noticed that the business’ federal and state taxes hadn’t been paid in several years, nor had its contracted vendors. They stumbled upon his theft while examining financial records, according to Copeland.
“His greed caused financial hardship for the O’Leary Funeral Home, which has made good on all of the promised contracts despite William O’Leary’s misdeeds,” she said in a statement Monday. “He recruited his significant other, Mary Alice Kelly, to help him victimize a corporation with a longstanding reputation of serving families in their time of need.”
Kelly, 62, faces similar charges. She allegedly received more than $100,000 wired into her personal banking account by O’Leary, according to investigators.
In a statement Monday after O’Leary’s arrest, the funeral home’s current management said that it considers his alleged theft as “nothing less than a betrayal of our family’s reputation” and that it was continuing to cooperate with the investigation.
“At the same time, we want to assure our community that the O’Leary family will continue to honor all of our funeral contracts and obligations,” the statement from Colleen O’Leary said. “We really appreciate the tremendous support that we have received from the families we serve all over the area, and we want them to know we intend to be here for many years to come.”