FRANKLIN PARK, Ill. (CBS) — A loved one is reporting a funeral home failure – and it is not the first time we have exposed this Franklin Park business.
As CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reported, the family ran into problem after problem with the Cuneo-Columbian Funeral Home in Franklin Park as they grieved.
Nobody was around Thursday night at the funeral home at 10300 Grand Ave. in the western suburb. That fits a pattern.
“I would just say something’s very, very fishy,” said Michael Blacconiere.
Blaccionere’s cousin, Frank Puleo, died in December.
“He worked as a tuckpointer and bricklayer for 42 years,” Blacconiere said.
But the union man did not get the proper burial he deserved.
“In 40 years of practice, I’ve never seen anything like this,” said attorney Ralanda Webb. “Just about everything that could go wrong, went wrong.”
Webb, representing Puleo’s family, filed a complaint against the funeral home and its owner, Gina Lewis.
“The funeral director could not be found at crucial times – like the time for viewing, the time for burial, the time for payment, and now can’t be found to even issue the death certificate,” Webb said.
The first failed attempt to bury Puleo stalled when the hearse wouldn’t start and needed a jump.
“They told us, ‘Oh, the hearse won’t start,’” said Blaccionere. “Oh, OK, well that’s not too good.”
But that wasn’t all. There was then a money shakedown text from funeral home owner Lewis.
“(She said), ‘Well, we won’t release the body because it hasn’t been paid,’” Blaccionere said.
The text message demanded payment as the family waited at the cemetery, despite Blaccionere having a cashier’s check cut and all ready to hand over.
“Wednesday, Christmas Eve, it was supposed to happen again,” Blaccionere said. “Nobody showed up at the funeral home.”
The family tried to bury frank a second time, but nobody was at the funeral home and texts to Lewis went unanswered.
De Mar introduced us to another family who reported trouble with the Cuneo-Columbian Funeral Home late last month.
“Give me her remains,” said Michelle Scotti.
Scotti waited months for her grandmother’s ashes – which were held hostage by Lewis and the funeral home. They were only returned when CBS 2 started asking questions.
The two families were unable to grieve on their own terms, and both blamed a funeral home they thought they could trust.
“There was definitely some anger and frustration, and just really being confused about, you know, what is going on with folks,” Blaccionere said.
The family attorney said the Cook County Sheriff’s office has not been able to track the funeral director down to serve her with the complaint.
As you can imagine, CBS 2’s attempt to find her for comment was also unsuccessful.