Victims of an alleged pre-paid funeral scheme in Streator should see reimbursement, said the Illinois comptroller’s office.
William “B.J.” Elias, 51, who had operated Elias Funeral Home in Streator, appeared Jan. 30 in court on 14 felony counts prosecutors said he stole more than $130,000 from “pre-need funeral funds” over a 16-year span. If convicted of the most serious counts, Elias could face 3-7 years in prison.
Seven counts are for violating the Illinois Funeral Funds Act; four for theft with deceptive intent less than $10,000 and three for theft with deceptive intent on a senior citizen amounting to more than $5,000, according to court documents. All counts include the possibility of probation.
The Illinois State Comptroller’s Office previously stated in a press release Elias stole $136,112 in pre-need funeral funds from 31 victims between 2003 and 2019.
“If the judge orders full restitution in the criminal case, the victims will be made whole that way,” said Jayette Bolinski, Deputy Communications Director for the Comptroller’s Office. “If after the criminal trial is over and the victims have still not received their money back, they can apply for a refund through the Illinois Office of the Comptroller.”
Some of the victims who have loved ones who have died have been reimbursed from the Illinois Funeral Consumer Protection Fund, which gets $5 from every pre-need funeral contract sold in the state.
Elias is scheduled to appear in court Thursday, Feb. 20, on charges he stole from pre-paid funeral funds. He will be represented by public defender Tim Cappellini. Elias’ case will go next to a grand jury on Tuesday, Feb. 18, and he will seek trial dates two days later.
“Funeral directors who violate the public’s trust must be held accountable,” said Illinois State Comptroller Susana A. Mendoza. “I appreciate the priority LaSalle County authorities placed on this investigation, and I look forward to Elias’ victims receiving prompt justice.”
A June Illinois comptroller’s order said Elias submitted false annual reports to cover up the theft. His pre-need license was revoked in February and his funeral director’s license was revoked in October.
Elias is out on bond, having posted $7,500 after surrendering himself to Streator police.