In 2015, the family of the deceased Helen Gallick sued Simi Valley-based El Rancho Simi Pioneer Cemetery District and its former manager Barbara Scroggins for mishandling of human remains, fraud and breach of contract, after discovering that Gallick had not been buried where the family had been told she was. In June 2016, the family settled for $200,000, as reported in the Simi Valley Acorn. Now, several other families have settled, while other suits are pending or waiting to be filed, as perhaps over 20 or more families have been affected by the fraudulent burials.
Attorney Joe Jones of Ventura-based Ball & Yorke represents five of the families who have filed suits against the district, including the Gallick family. Three of the five have settled, one case is currently pending, and another will be filed by the end of the month, he says.
Jones says that some of the bodies had been buried many years ago and the process of verification has been “insane,” recalling the family of a man buried when his children were young, except that have those children, now adults, fly from out of state to identify the exhumed remains of their father.
“We had to dig them out of the ground, and these caskets had been in the ground for long enough that they deteriorated,” said Jones. “I’m getting the chills just thinking about it because of the smell and the noises and the sight; it was awful.”
Scroggins is alleged to have double- or triple-sold cemetery plots to families, typically either of lower income or older families, by acting as a go-between for other families wishing to sell their plots. Only those families never existed, and Scroggins allegedly pocketed the money, burying the deceased sometimes on top of or below others.
The plot came to light in 2015 when Scroggins was replaced by a new manager who informed affected families.
“At least 23 or 24 [families] either don’t know where their relatives are buried or they’re buried in the wrong location or buried on top of others,” said Jones, having spoken with the District Attorney’s office.
Jones expects that the fifth lawsuit will be filed within the next 30 days.