- The Washington Times - Monday, April 13, 2009

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Two women accused of staging sham funerals to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in life insurance payments have pleaded not guilty in federal court in Los Angeles.

Sixty-year-old Faye Shilling and 67-year-old mortuary worker Jean Crump entered pleas Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Abrams.

The two women were charged last week with mail and wire fraud. They remained free on $10,000 bond. They declined to comment after the arraignment.

Prosecutors say they schemed to defraud insurance companies and funeral-related businesses out of as much as $1 million by purchasing policies on fictitious people then staging their funerals.

Crump worked at a now-defunct Long Beach mortuary. Shilling is a phlebotomist _ a health care worker who draws blood.

Two other people, one of them a mortuary owner, have pleaded guilty to related charges, and prosecutor Anthony Montero said the investigation is continuing.

The indictment said Crump offered one doctor $50,000 to lie on medical records to support the cause of death listed on a phony death certificate.

Caskets were allegedly weighted with various materials to make it appear they contained corpses.

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