For decades, Louis and Phyllis Schneider took care of each other.
“He was wonderful. He was terrific," Phyllis recalled of her husband of 70 years. “We had a wonderful marriage.”
When Louis died in September, the Schneider family thought services and burial were taken care of too – after all, they had spent $34,000 that they say was supposed to go into a trust to pay for both of their services and burials.
After Louis was buried, Phyllis said, “I really felt at ease, at peace. I thought my husband was going to be in peace. And two days later, the you-know-what hit the fan.”
That’s when the Star of David cemetery informed the family that a $6,500 check from Riverside Florida Funeral Homes LLC had bounced. Account closed, the bank had informed the cemetery.
Phyllis has not been at peace since.
“Oh my God, they turned my life upside down. I haven’t had a peaceful night since this occurred,” she told the NBC 6 Investigators. “It’s been a horror.”
Same for Jahoska Rodriguez, whose husband of 15 years, Jose, died suddenly in January.
A couple weeks after burial at Forest Lawn, she got a call from the cemetery.
“They told me that the payment hasn’t been done for the gravesite of my husband and how was I going to pay for it. And I told them I already paid Shawn for it,” she said.
She says Shawn did not give her his last name when he took $4,700 in cash from her and signed a receipt on behalf of Riverside Florida Funeral Homes.
The NBC 6 Investigators showed her an array of mugshots belonging to convicted felon, Raymond Shawn Mackey, 40.
She says she instantly recognized him as the man who took her cash.
“That’s him,” she said, pointing to the photos that included one from his 2004 conviction for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
“He was very nice, he was very helpful,” she recalled, though, she said she’s come to realize, “he was scamming me.”
The NBC 6 Investigators tried to question Mackey at the funeral home’s listed address in Oakland Park, but by October, the office was vacant. The company’s landlord sought its eviction, claiming it stopped paying rent in August.
(Riverside Florida Funeral Homes LLC is not associated with Riverside Gordon Memorial Chapels, which has an excellent reputation in South Florida.)
But we did find Mackey at the office address of another funeral home company, created by some of the same people associated with Riverside Florida.
We tried to ask what he thought of the allegations Schneider and Rodriguez are making against him, but he closed the door on us.
Then he re-emerged long enough for NBC 6 Investigator Tony Pipitone to ask, “Mr. Mackey, what is going on here? What about all that money you took from those people? They have to pay twice to have their loved ones buried? Tell us why that is.”
He said he would only speak off camera, before shutting the door again.
Off camera, he denied soliciting, handling or receiving any money on behalf of the funeral business.
Soon after, he drove off in a black minivan with a placard on the dash that read “Funeral Director on Official Business.”
The Schneiders have filed a complaint with the state agency that oversees funeral services. Mackey has not been charged with any crimes related to the funeral business.
Mackey is not a licensed funeral director. Had he applied to become one, his felony conviction could have been used to deny him licensure by the state board that oversees the industry. It says it has no record he ever applied.
The funeral director that Riverside Florida claimed was in charge at the business told the state in February he was unaware they were using his license and complained the company was “forging my signature without my knowledge.” The state took no action against Riverside Florida’s license.
None of that is comforting to Rodriguez, who in June obtained a $4,200 judgment against Riverside Florida Funeral Home LLC from small claims court in Broward County.
Without that money – and the headstone it would allow her to place on the now-unmarked grave, she says she’s can’t bring herself to bring her two children to their father’s gravesite.
“There’s no way we could bring flowers to him, there’s no headstone,” she said.
Asked what she thinks of someone who could take money from a grieving widow without providing all the services promised, she replied, “That’s really mean of him taking my money knowing what I’m going through.”
Phyllis Schneider, whose family has complained to the state, claiming it was taken for $28,000, is a bit more blunt in her assessment of those involved.
“Low life,” she said. “Real low life.”