Family says woman stole money intended for relative's funeral

Posted at 10:47 PM, Aug 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-16 07:28:30-04

A family mourning the loss of their brother says they were scammed into paying a woman to plan their brother’s funeral.

Trina Donovan and Angel Hurst say Juanita Pinon told the family her nonprofit Las Unikas would cover the funeral costs for their brother’s service, who died August 1.

“She said it was a nonprofit organization and that her focus was to help the community. That she helped families in need,” said Donovan.

The sisters say Pinon made a GoFundMe account to raise funds for the funeral services, and assured the family she would coordinate the costs and payments with the funeral homes. They say Pinon asked them for $1,500 in good faith, and that her organization would match whatever the family raised to pay the funeral home.

The family paid her the money in cash and Pinon issued them a receipt.

Hurst says they were in constant communication with Pinon, but grew concerned after Pinon told the family they couldn’t move forward with the services because there was a hold on the body.

“She kept saying that the funeral home had a hold on my brother’s body. Now that’s something I’ve never heard of before so we did a little investigation of our own and found out the mortuary had never even heard from her. She never called them, she never went in with a card – they never had his body on hold. They were simply waiting on payment,” says Donovan.

Donovan says they reached out to Pinon and asked for their money back.

“It was excuse after excuse after excuse,” said Donovan. “First, she said the bank wasn’t releasing the funds on her card. Then she said she was stuck in traffic and couldn’t take it to us. Then said her niece was in an accident so she had to go to Mexico, then that she was in a car accident – I mean, she’s the woman of a thousand excuses.”

Nearly a week after the funeral, the family says Pinon and the money is gone.

“Not only did we lose the money we paid her, but on top of that, we had to pay the first funeral home where we had our brother, then pay the second funeral home where the service was held. Thousands of dollars,” said Hurst.

Nikita Larson with Kremer Funeral Home, where the funeral service was held, says this is the second family Pinon allegedly scammed at her funeral home in recent months.

“The first family came in May and they started mentioning charges that Juanita told them about – things like a special blanket they needed to cover the body during the service and a shot that they needed to preserve the body of their loved one – things that we don’t even offer at the funeral home,” says Larson.

“Her lies are going to catch up with her. You reap what you sew,” says Donovan.

Pinon was arrested in September 2016 for two counts of theft by deception but was later released on bond.

The Hurst family says they will be filing charges against Pinon later this week.

3 News Now attempted to contact Pinon but did not hear back.