A Putnam County funeral home director is heading to prison for insurance fraud. Chad Harding was sentenced to 3-30 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. He has plead guilty to three counts of insurance fraud.

"It's been an embarrassment upon my family, my wife, my parents, my in-laws and all my friends and our community," said Harding.

Prosecutors say Harding received more than $900,000 from filing false claims for funeral services against more than 100 people who purchased preneed 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/Complianced and Assistant General Counsel for Homesteaders Life Company.

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

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

"We've always trusted them, and when I found out that I was really heartbroken," said Hickman. "This is hurting me, because I'm supposed to be dead, because I was the first he cashed in on and not knowing it," said Elizabeth Thompson. She and her husband were also part of the false claims filed by Harding.

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.

See   DRAFT BILL SET TO TERMINATE WV BOARD OF EMBALMERS AND FUNERAL DIRECTORS - Failure To Hold Directors Accountable Bilking Pre-Need Funds

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