Wonewoc, Wis. - A former funeral home director could face prison time and thousands of dollars in fines in Juneau County. Authorities believe Steven Mitchell, 52, used the money his customers set aside to cover funeral costs for himself.
Mitchell is facing 12 counts of theft charges. The Mauston man allegedly stole nearly $80,000 from people who thought they were prepaying funeral costs, according to a criminal complaint.
Mitchell sold the Thompson Funeral Home in Wonewoc in 2017. It was purchased by Alan Picha and renamed Picha Funeral Home. Shortly after the purchase, Picha said people called, claiming they had prepaid their funeral costs. While they had the records of their checks to back up their claimsthere were no records of the money on the funeral home’s books.
Authorities now believe Mitchell was pocketing the money instead of putting it into a safeguard at the bank,as legally required.
“We did a search warrant of Mitchell's residence and did find his bank statements. They corresponded with the dates and times of the victim’s checks and the deposits of the same dollar amounts,” said Chief Julie Ott, of the Wonewoc Police Department.
Mitchell's initial court appearance is scheduled for next week.
“Obviously, you're not proven guilty until you go to court but it's pretty easy to follow the trail of paperwork and banking. I know what took place,” Picha said.
Mitchell is facing separate charges of child pornography, filed last year.
Anyone who thinks they may have lost money at the Thompson Funeral Home is asked to contact Wonewoc Police at 608-464-3961.
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