The smell of rotting human flesh led to the discovery of what authorities called “a ponzi scheme” at a mortuary in Ft. Worth, Texas.

The co-owner of the Johnson Family Mortuary, 41-year-old Dondre Johnson was found guilty by a Tarrant County jury, convicted of multiple counts of theft, as well as multiple counts of abuse of a corpse, a Class A misdemeanor under Texas law.

Johnson faces a maximum of two years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The prosecutor alleged that Johnson had failed to perform mortuary services, including embalming and cremation, for which he received payments from families.

In some cases, Johnson gave the wrong ashes to families.

Tarrant County DA told the jury, “The way you get caught in a Ponzi scheme is that someone asks for their money back. Mr. Johnson got caught when a family member, Mr. Labenz, came to the funeral home and smelled those bodies.”

The Ft. Worth newspaper, Star-Telegram, reported that eight bodies were found at the mortuary in various stages of decomposition so advanced that they were impossible to identify.

Johnson claimed he was only an employee at the mortuary and that his wife, Rachel Hardy-Johnson, actually ran the business, including maintaining control of the company’s finances. He claimed she refused to provide the money required for him to perform the necessary services on the corpses.

His defense attorney told the jury, “Rachel ran the show. She’s the one who signs the lease. She’s the one who pays the bills. It stops with her. It’s a family run business. But she’s the boss.”

Johnson’s defense was corroborated by a former co-worker who testified that Hardy-Johnson had sole control of all ownership duties, including payroll, scheduling and management. “No one stood up to her,” the witness said.

Hardy-Johnson is currently serving time in a federal prison for food stamp fraud while she awaits her trial on the theft and abuse charges.

Johnson is also facing criminal charges of failure to pay child support.

The Johnson Family Mortuary was in negotiations in 2014 for a television reality show that would highlight the day-to-day challenges of operating a funeral home.


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