In a case that has generated headlines in Massachusetts since 2014, a former life insurance agent there is no longer facing criminal charges after recently agreeing to pay $106,533 in restitution in the wake of an insurance fraud case involving 250 allegedly forged final expense and pre-need life insurance applications.
Susan M. Ryder, the now divorced wife of former South Hadley, Mass., funeral home director William W. Ryder, agreed on Nov. 13 to pay the restitution to Columbian Mutual Life Insurance Company, and also agreed to surrender any insurance agent licenses and to not seek reinstatement of any previously issued insurance agent licenses or apply for new licenses.
So how did it come to be that this former agent allowed her name to be on so many fraudulent applications over a whopping 10-year period? It’s a fairly long and sordid story involving a house of cards that would inevitably come crashing down.
The Ryder Funeral Home in South Hadley had been in operation since 1953. It was shut down by state and local authorities in May 2014 when investigators, tipped off by an embalmer working for Ryder, found several unlabeled bodies in various states of decomposition and improperly stored.
Further investigation revealed he allegedly embezzled $375,180 from 70 customers through pre-need funeral arrangements between 2001 and 2014. According to an article on Massachusetts insurance news website Agency Checklists, William Ryder pleaded not guilty to a single indictment alleging insurance fraud and 10 grand larceny indictments at his arraignment on July 15, 2015, after pleading not guilty on June 24 to 56 indictments charging him with grand larceny and five indictments charging him with improper disposition of a human body.
According to a July 15 articlein the Daily Hampshire Gazette, documents from the investigation portrayed Ryder as a “beleaguered funeral director who had been working alone and showing signs of unusual behavior.” He was said to be cooperative, but seemed to only have a marginal understanding of the severity of the situation and the condition of the funeral home was in complete disarray.