Metro-East News

More families say burial plots were resold at Wanda Cemetery; investigation continues

South Roxana authorities are investigating possible fraud at Wanda Cemetery amid allegations that the cemetery has double-sold plots.
South Roxana authorities are investigating possible fraud at Wanda Cemetery amid allegations that the cemetery has double-sold plots.

Police served a second round of subpoenas Thursday for records from Wanda Cemetery after several complaints came in alleging the cemetery resold plots that had already been paid for.

South Roxana authorities were investigating possible fraud at Wanda Cemetery in March amid allegations that the cemetery has double-sold plots.

A majority of the new complaints allege that the customers tried to work out the issues with Wanda Cemetery staff without involving law enforcement, a statement from South Roxana Police Chief Bob Coles stated Thursday.

The release said the complainants reported that cemetery staff refused to talk to them over their lots, which is what forced them to report the issues to police.

Coles believe these reports illustrate a change in the business’ mentality.

“The cemetery remained confrontational to the police and cursed at the officer when serving the subpoena. The officer explained the reason the police department is seeking further records is more alleged victims have come forward filing a complaint against the cemetery,” Coles wrote.

However, Wanda Cemetery office manager Diana Williams says that is not true.

“What I said to the officer is, and I quote, ‘Are you guys ever going to leave us alone?’ There was no foul language,” she said.

Williams said the subpoena requests records for three families who have complaints, along with all sales receipts the cemetery has on file from 1990 through 2018.

One person had filed a complaint in March about lots she had purchased being resold without her permission, according to a previous statement from Coles. The woman, who was not named by police, discovered the lots she had paid for had been resold when her husband passed away.

However, Williams said Thursday that after going through records from 2012 to 2018, no other lots were resold like the one in March, which she said was due to a bookkeeping error.

In March, Wanda Cemetery board president Josh Sullivant told the BND the current board was left “cleaning up the mess” of the previous board, which left poor records.

Williams says the three families who have since complained to police simply owe the cemetery money for their plots.

Coles, in his statement, said he has also requested records from the Attorney General’s Office to help aid in the investigation.

“I know of at least two more families who came into my office concerned over the cemetery and their lots but did not wish to file a complaint at this time,” Coles wrote in the statement.

This is not the first time the cemetery has found itself in controversy. Five years ago, complaints were filed about the condition of the cemetery and the legality of the board. It was determined in 2013 that board members should be appointed by the Madison County Board, and most of the current board was appointed at that time.

Wanda Cemetery has more than 6,000 plots and is on Indiana Avenue in South Roxana. It was incorporated as a not for profit in 1949.

Dana Rieck: 618-239-2642, @ByDanaRieck