TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — A man convicted of running unlicensed funeral operations in four counties across Ohio was sentenced Friday to more than 11 years in prison.
A Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge had found Shawnte Hardin, 41, guilty of dozens of felony counts earlier this month, concluding a bench trial that began earlier this year.
Hardin, who has maintained his innocence, was acquitted on six counts. He was ordered to serve a minimum of 11 years and 10 months to 14 years in prison.
Authorities have said Hardin ran funeral services in Summit, Cuyahoga, Franklin and Lucas counties without having a license. He had pleaded not guilty to various counts, including tampering with records, passing bad checks, identity fraud and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.
Hardin was initially indicted in late 2021 after being accused of running an unlicensed funeral operation. The investigation had begun a short time earlier after someone called 911 and reported seeing a corpse being moved from a van into a building. State agents subsequently removed two bodies from the site.
Hardin told a Columbus television station at the time that he was not acting as a funeral director but was instead offering low cost services for transporting and washing dead bodies.
In January, authorities said investigators had found the cremated remains of 89 people stored in boxes and bags at an abandoned church owned by Hardin in Akron.