SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The Indiana State Funeral Licensings Board released full details on the suspension of the license of Alford’s Mortuary owner Donald Alford. According to documents posted to the government website, Alford received an indefinite suspension of his license. And, while he can petition to have his license reinstated in 6 months, there’s no guarantee he will ever be able to legally perform funeral services again.
The Funeral Board suspended Alford’s license at its meeting on August 3rd. The suspension is the result of a partnership Alford had with a local “activist” who was taking and sharing full-body nude photos of corpses that were in Alford’s care. Multiple families sued Alford’s and the activist, Vernado Malone, for the nude picture scheme. Alford’s settled the case with the families. However, the case is still pending against Malone and his non-profit Justice for Michiana. The case is currently scheduled for a jury trial in May of next year.
According to minutes from the August 3rd meeting, Alford’s Mortuarys’ facility license has also been placed on “Indefinite Probation… without the right to petition for removal of probation for ONE (1) YEAR from the date of this Final Order.” The Funeral Board also levied fines and other punishments. All of the discipline can be viewed in the document below.
NUDE PICTURE SCHEME
All of this stems from an RNM investigation along with Tim Corbett of Corbett Investigations. In March of 2021, RNM published a story outlining how Vernado Malone, a convicted felon and the owner and founder of the Justice for Michiana non-profit, was taking the full-body nude pictures at Alford’s Mortuary and then showing them to random members of the public. RNM has interviewed dozens of people who were shown the pictures. The Indiana Attorney General has since opened an investigation into the disturbing scheme.
SOUTH BEND GIVES TAXPAYER GRANT TO CONVICTED FELON
This is not the first time Malone has been involved in potentially illegal activity. Federal court records show Malone has a criminal record spanning more than a decade.
In 1999, Vernado Malone was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for credit card fraud. He was ordered to pay more than $17,000 in restitution.
In 2005, Vernado Malone was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison for Conspiracy to Defraud the United States and Aiding and Abetting Forfeiture Allegation. He was ordered to pay $120,000 in restitution.
In 2015, Vernado Malone was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison for Mail Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft. He was ordered to pay more than $50,000 in restitution.
There are also several state level charges and convictions, including child molestation. Malone recently petitioned the court to expunge those records.
Despite all of that, the City of South Bend awarded Malone with $7,000 in taxpayer money as part of the “Alive grant.”
According to the city’s website, the “Alive grant program is part of the City’s ongoing efforts to reduce incidents of gun violence in the community and provide constructive initiatives for South Bend’s young people.”
Attached is Malone’s grant application and the City’s award.
In 2021, RNM reached out to Mayor James Mueller, who had the city’s director of communications, Caleb Bauer, respond. The city had 3 days to come up with the following statement.
“The South Bend Alive Grant Program was developed to support community-based initiatives that work to reduce incidents of gun violence in South Bend. Applicants were required to complete a narrative grant application describing their plans for prospective programming and submit a budget form detailing how grant funds would be utilized.Recipients are required to provide quarterly updates on their programs and measurable data to the Office of Community Initiatives for review.
Grant recipients have agreed to comply with all federal, state and local laws, rules, regulations and ordinances. A grantee who violated any laws would also be in violation of the program agreement and could be subject to litigation.”
RNM asked Bauer if the city knew about Vernado Malone’s criminal record and if the city did background checks on the applicants. Bauer did not respond.
However, Malone is not the only criminal the city handed taxpayer dollars over to. RNM’s investigations into the Alive Grant and its awardees have lead to the discovery of several other potential criminal acts.
RNM discovered the city changed the name on one grant to give money to a friend of the Director of Community Initiatives, Maurice Scott. A notice of tort was issued in that case. You can read all about that here.
Another awardee, Wright Chosen Ministries and its founder Lori Wright, is accused of taking food stamps from homeless families and selling them to a woman in Louisiana. You can read more about that story here.
RNM discovered the city gave thousands of dollars to a convicted murderer who had been out of prison for less than a year. You can read about that here.
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