Corona cemetery sued over claims it's hiding graves to sell more burial plots

CORONA, Calif. (KABC) -- Sunnyslope Cemetery in Corona is the target of a class-action lawsuit in which the plaintiffs are claiming it was graded and had grave markers removed to sell more burial plots.

Arnulfo Felix said his grandfather was buried in the cemetery on the northwest corner of the property in the 1920s. He said he would often visit, when all of the sudden the gravesite was gone.

"Somebody had put dirt over it, about 2 or 3 feet of dirt on top of that grave," he said.

He said the whole corner of the cemetery has been cleared out. Felix believes the grave of his grandfather is now underground so the cemetery owner could make room for more bodies on top of it.

"These people that are doing these things are doing it for money," he said.

Felix isn't alone in those claims.

Many people have similar stories and now only have old photos of the times when they would visit. Eva Mejia said a cross was placed on her sister's grave, which was later found in a maintenance shed.

"I didn't think that anybody had the right to dishonor them," she said.

They're all part of the class-action lawsuit filed against the cemetery. Attorney Scott Schutzman said the land was recently sold to a mosque so they could use the place as a burial site.

"The scheme here is to sell 200 to 400 graves in land that is occupied. The people who did this thought is that no one would ever complain because the burials stopped in 1941," Schutzman said.

He believes the mosque was duped, too.

"I believe fraud was committed and negligence was committed to the mosque who bought the graves. I can't believe that they knew or they would buy occupied graves for their loved ones," he said.

This situation may be more than a civil matter. Pictures from two weeks ago show detectives digging up the site. According to a search warrant, they found a casket with human remains 12 feet underground.

"Under the health and safety code, if you recycle graves that have human remains - that's a felony," Schutzman said.

Eyewitness News spoke with an attorney who represents the property said he takes the concerns very seriously. He pointed out a two-year-old report done by the Department of Consumer Affairs that showed the allegations were unsubstantiated.

The Riverside County District Attorney's Office confirmed it's investigating the claims.
Copyright © 2019 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.