Owner of Penn Hills tombstone business pleads guilty to swindling the bereaved out of $90K
Money is not enough to cover the damage done by Curtis Eakman, the former owner of a Penn Hills headstone business who swindled 56 mourning family members out of more than $90,000, some of his victims said Monday.
“Given all the grief he created for these families at really vulnerable times for them, I think he deserves something more than just (paying) restitution,” said Gus Anderson of Troy Hill.
Anderson and his wife ordered a headstone for their son, Kristopher, who died in late 2012. They never received it, and it was never placed at the grave site.
Eakman pleaded guilty Monday in front of Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Anthony M. Mariani, who will sentence Eakman on July 7.
He was charged in February 2014 with 10 counts of theft by deception and one count of deceptive business practices when clients who did not receive headstones began contacting police. Prosecutors dropped seven theft charges in exchange for the guilty plea.
The four remaining charges are punishable by up to seven years in prison each.
Eakman’s lawyer, Casey D. White, said he plans to ask the judge for a sentence that would allow Eakman to repay his victims quickly. He said Eakman is working at Lowe’s and has saved $4,000 toward restitution.
White said his client showed little remorse in court Monday because he is “a very quiet individual” who does not communicate effectively. He said it was that inability to communicate well that caused Eakman’s victims to contact authorities.
Brandy Howard, originally from Pittsburgh and now living in Maryland, bought a custom headstone for her father from Eakman in 2012 and paid nearly $3,000 up front. She checked in after six months, she said, and Eakman told her it was in the works.
At eight months, when her emails to Eakman went unanswered, she came to Pittsburgh and pressed charges. She said she appreciates his work toward restitution, but “that’ll take forever.”
“I’d like to see him do a little bit of jail time,” Howard said. “There need to be consequences for what he did to these people.”