MADERA COUNTY – On Thursday, Sheriff’s detectives arrested the co-owner of Smith Manor Grace Chapel in Madera, on numerous counts of fraud.
The arrest of Sharlane Smith follows several weeks of investigation into allegations that Smith Manor was intentionally over-charging the County of Madera for Coroner’s Services.
Smith Manor has held the County’s coroner services contract since 2007 and has been responsible for transportation, storage, autopsy facilities, and dispositions of deceased persons in Madera County.
Evidence uncovered by detectives reportedly indicates that Smith was intentionally adding charges to the monthly billing to the County for services that were not actually provided.
A search warrant was served on the business on Thursday, Mar. 31, and several employees were interviewed but no one was immediately taken into custody.
Numerous business records were seized during the service of the search warrant and will continue to be examined as the investigation continues. At this point in the investigation, it appears that the County was intentionally billed for services not provided over a period of many years, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Smith Manor will no longer be handling Coroner’s services for Madera County; these duties have been reassigned to other local entities until another provider is identified. Services to the citizens of Madera County should not be affected during the course of this investigation.
“This case is particularly troubling due to the blatant theft and violation of trust by the vendor, as well as how long they were able to continue this deception despite monthly review of the billings by staff members,” says Sheriff Varney. “We will be reviewing this process and implementing safeguards to prevent future abuse of this kind.”