HUDSON, Fla (WFLA) – When 74-year-old Ruth Bachtalowsky wrote a check for more than $2,400 for her final expenses, she had no idea she was being scammed.
“And I wrote him a check for $2,410 and he gave me a receipt,” Bachtalowsky said. “If it weren’t for that receipt, I would’ve been out of luck.”
Michael Ritz worked for Grace Memorial Gardens in March. Pasco County Sheriff’s Office deputies say he took the check, made it out to himself and cashed it.
When two unexpected bills came due, Bachtalowsky called Ritz and asked for a refund. He promised he would get her money back, she said.
“I’m waiting; no check. I call him up on his cell phone and he said, ‘Well, give me seven to 10 more business days and I’ll have it,'” Bachtalowsky said.
The money never came.
The sheriff’s office began an investigation and so did Grace Memorial Gardens. The cemetery and funeral home fired Ritz after he admitted taking the money. Management then refunded Bachtalowsky’s money.
Ritz then went to work for another funeral home in Tampa. He was arrested on the Pasco charges after his first day on the job.
Deputies are now investigating, trying to figure out if there are additional victims. Sgt. Chris Thomas is leading that investigation.
“He claims today that he did not do this at the new funeral home. Of course, he just started today,” Thomas said. “And as far as here, we’re just reaching out to our residents and our community that anyone who had any dealings with this Michael Ritz at this facility to contact us. ”
Ritz currently faces a single count of grand theft. Deputies released him from jail after he posted a $5,000 bond.