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Woman Gets Jail Time In Funeral Embezzlement Case

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BAY CITY (WWJ/AP) – A Michigan woman will be spending the next seven to 20 years behind bars for embezzling more than $400,000 from customers of her Bay County funeral home business.

Bay County Circuit Judge Joseph Sheeran sentenced Erica Kaznowski on Friday. The 41-year-old was found guilty in early October of six counts of conversion of prepaid funeral services as well as counts of racketeering and conducting a criminal enterprise.

Sheeran also ordered Kaznowski to pay $463,000 in restitution to victims and insurance companies.

Assistant Attorney General Denise Hart said during trial that Kaznowski embezzled $436,000 from 89 customers from 2005 to 2011 while she managed Stapish Cederberg Funeral Homes’ two locations in Bay City and Hampton Township.

In one case, it is alleged that families of victims were denied access to the funds to which they were entitled when funeral expenses were incurred.

Family members of Kaznowski’s victims addressed her during Friday’s sentencing hearing with sharp words, according to MLive.com.

“I hope you get what you got coming to you,” said Irene Gassman, who said her mother was a victim. “I hope you never see the outside.”

“I hope you think about this all the time. We hold you in the utmost contempt,” said Patricia Fritz, who claims she lost $17,000 to Kaznowski.

Sandy Coyer, who said her 91-year-old mother was a victim, called Kaznowski “a vulture.”

“Only you don’t wait to prey on people until they’re dead,” she said.

Kaznowski did briefly address the victims before the sentencing. Her remarks drew scoffs from the crowd.

“I never meant to hurt anybody,” she said. “I’m really sorry I let anybody down.”

TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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