- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

BOSTON (AP) - A former Boston funeral home director who stashed human remains in storage lockers, gave families the wrong ashes after cremations, and cheated customers out of $150,000 was sentenced Wednesday to up to five years in prison after emotional statements from his victims.

Joseph O’Donnell, 57, apologized in Suffolk Superior Court after changing his plea to guilty to dozens of charges. He was also sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay restitution in an amount to be determined at a later date. In addition, he was barred from working in the funeral business.

“Desperation led me to make terrible decisions,” he said, adding later that he was “truly sorry.”

O’Donnell was indicted on a 278-count indictment last October and originally pleaded not guilty.

His apology Wednesday didn’t placate the victims, including a woman who was given someone else’s ashes that she thought were her son’s.

“For two years, I carried ashes that weren’t my son’s,” said April Hopkins, whose son died in a car crash. “You took my son and didn’t care.”

O’Donnell’s funeral director’s license expired in 2009 but he continued doing business until the foreclosure of his Dorchester funeral home in 2013, performing more than 200 unlicensed burials and cremations, prosecutors said.

Investigators found 12 decomposed bodies and 32 sets of cremated remains in July 2014 in self-storage facilities that O’Donnell had rented in Weymouth and Somerville. He forged death and medical examiner certificates and stole funeral pre-payments from customers that was supposed to be placed in a trust, prosecutors said.

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