A BRISBANE funeral director has pleaded guilty to loading his station wagon with dozens of bodies and driving them eight hours to Rockhampton for cut-price cremations, Today Tonight reported.
On Monday, Beenleigh Magistrates Court heard the grieving families were completely unaware that their loved ones had been transported north for the services because they were supposed to have been conducted in the greater Brisbane area.
Anthony William James, 35, of Affordable Family Funerals transported and cremated 59 bodies under the scheme, making a profit of $30,426 between December 2009 and May 2011.
A statement issued by Today Tonight said police were tipped off following a letter of complaint made to the Queensland Department of Justice and Attorney-General.
Prosecutor Sergeant Neil King told the court James forged signatures and falsified details on death registration documents to make a profitable gain.
"One would expect that a funeral director wouldn't exploit the administration of body for a profit," Mr King said.
"A funeral director holds a position of trust within the community.
"He was deceitful in his actions to the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registry.
"This is serious, this is a test case.
"There's no precedent and we need to send a message to the community."
James was facing 89 charges, 15 of which carried a maximum jail term of 14 years.
Defence barrister Charles Bagley said no great damage had been done.
"He put the wrong name down, where the service was conducted," Mr Bagley said.
"He has dyslexia and stupidly filled out another form; he does not deserve going to jail."
Magistrate Joan White agreed with Mr Bagley, despite the prosecution initially pushing for a four-year jail term.
"It was a stupid act, but I don't believe he was trying to be deceitful," Ms White said.
"The offence is simply falsifying the place of cremation."
James was sentenced to 12 months jail, suspended for two years.
Helen Taylor, whose husband was transported to Rockhampton to be cremated, broke down in tears as the sentence was read out.
Outside of court she told Today Tonight the sentence was a joke.
"I could not believe the lies that came out today," Mrs Taylor said.
"I'll be angry and upset about this, I don't know how long for."
James is still practising as a funeral director under the business name of Elysian Fields Funerals.