SMITHFIELD, Pa. - It was a heartbroken family member who started Channel 11's investigation months ago into a local monument company.
The family waited more than a year for its mother's headstone, but it never arrived.
And then Wednesday, Channel 11 was the only television station there when the business owner, who had blamed the problem on a fax mistake, was charged.
“I cried. It was the best Christmas present ever,” Megan Shumar told Channel 11 anchor Katherine Amenta Thursday.
Shumar finally has her mother’s gravestone at the Mt. Moriah Baptist Cemetery in Smithfield.
Shumar called Channel 11 back in November because she had been waiting more than a year for the headstone to be installed. She said she bought it from Penn Hills Monuments in 2012 but kept getting excuse after excuse from owner Curt Eakman.
Police charged Eakman Wednesday. They said he used at least $38,000 worth of customers’ money as his own personal piggy bank instead of providing the grave markers.
Eakman told Channel 11 he’s innocent.
“I was in the process of fixing everything until they came and took my files,” said Eakman.
Like Shumar, some families have received their stones in the last few months.
According to the criminal complaint, after Channel 11’s story aired, the local headstone installer, who did much of the work for Eakman, said he put up several stones to protect his own business from bad publicity even though Eakman hadn’t paid him in a year.
A lot of families were waiting for headstones, Channel 11 reported. Police said 51 customers fell victim to Eakman. He faces a preliminary hearing this month.