Several people died, but their credit cards had a life of their own
Mortuary workers on trial in Brooklyn Federal Court
Paying for your parking tickets, your EZ Pass or even buying an AC system for your house with a credit card does not seem macabre, in general. But if you are accused of stealing that credit card from the body of a deceased stranger, while you perform your duties in the city’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner, that is macabre. Such charges, and more, were made against one Brooklyn man and an accomplice in U.S. Eastern District Court here yesterday.
Two criminal complaints were unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn charging Charles McFadgen and Willie Garcon with access device fraud for using credit and debit cards that belonged to decedents whose bodies were in the care and custody of the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME). McFadden and Garcon made their initial appearances on Tuesday afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Roanne L. Mann.
Garcon, a Brooklyn resident, was employed at the OCME between May 2018 and July 2020 as a forensic mortuary technician. His duties included transporting the bodies of decedents from the location of death to the OCME. Garcon was also employed by the Burlington, N.J., County Medical Examiner’s Office from February 2020 to May 21, 2020.
In May 2020, Garcon was arrested by state authorities in New Jersey and was found to possess property that had belonged to four people who died in New York City and whose bodies had been placed in the OCME’s custody.
According to the OCME’s records, Garcon was assigned to transport the bodies of three of the deceased and was working as an autopsy technician at the OCME in New York when the body of the fourth decedent arrived there. A subsequent investigation revealed that Garcon made nearly $6,500 in unauthorized purchases, including airline travel from Newark to Fort Lauderdale, using credit and debit cards that belonged to the four.
McFadgen, a Bronx resident, was employed at the OCME as a mortuary technician between October 2003 and July 2016, when he retired. McFadgen admitted to investigators that both during and after his employment at the OCME, he used debit and credit cards that he knew had been stolen. McFadgen made more than $13,500 in unauthorized purchases using debit and credit cards stolen from five recently deceased people whose bodies were in the OCME’s custody.
Mark J. Lesko, acting United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York; William F. Sweeney, Jr., assistant director-in-charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI); and Margaret Garnett, commissioner, New York City Department of Investigation (DOI), announced the arrests and charges.
“As alleged, the defendants, as mortuary technicians employed by New York City’s OCME, had a solemn duty to care for the bodies of the deceased and treat their personal effects with the utmost respect. Instead, the defendants brazenly pilfered the belongings of the deceased, stole their property and enriched themselves by making unauthorized purchases worth several thousand dollars,” stated acting United States attorney Lesko.
“As representatives of the city’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner, these defendants should have provided compassion, dignity and respect for the deceased New Yorkers they were serving. Instead, they exploited the access of their positions and breached the trust the city placed in them by stealing from the dead, according to the charges. DOI thanks the NYPD, FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York for working together to expose the corruption and bring accountability to this charged conduct,” said DOI Commissioner Garnett.
Garcon’s attorney is Kelly Sharkey. McFadgen’s attorney is Michelle Gelernt of Brooklyn Federal Defenders office. The government will be represented by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Virginia Nguyen.
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