A Sylva, North Carolina couple may find themselves buried six feet under—in criminal charges and a substantial debt to society—after authorities unraveled a scheme that allegedly spanned nearly a decade.
Following an examination of preneed burial policies, authorities arrested Ronnie Austin Riddle, the former owner and operator of Melton Riddle Funeral Home, along with his wife, Thomasine Sheehan Riddle. The 56-year-old faces 13 counts of obtaining property by false pretense, while his wife, 55, has been charged with nine counts of the same offense.
The violations concerned discrepancies in pre-need contracts and accounting files, all of which culminated in a March 2006 agreed that effectively revoked the business’ pre-need establishment license and funeral home permit. Sources say the revocation was stayed for 3 years on conditions that a $2,000 penalty be paid, that all pre-need licensees complete a continuing education course, and that all cited violations be remedied.
Ronnie Riddle continued to operate the funeral home in subsequent years with significant lapses in coverage of having a permit to operate and later admitted during a hearing to violating N.C. General Statutes by conducting 298 funerals in 2008 while unlicensed, and another 19 the subsequent year while both he and the funeral home were unlicensed.