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Cemetery employee sold plots donated for COVID-19 victims, charges say

A West Valley cemetery employee has been charged with selling two burial plots that had been donated to help a needy family.
An employee at a cemetery in West Valley City has been charged with selling two burial plots that had been donated to help a needy family that lost loved ones due to COVID-19.
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A cemetery employee has been charged with selling two burial plots that had been donated to help a needy family that lost loved ones due to COVID-19.

Bjay Zelch, 39, of Bountiful, was charged Monday in 3rd District Court with theft by deception, a second-degree felony, and forgery, a third-degree felony.

A woman called Valley View Memorial Park, 4335 W. 4100 South in West Valley City, in August to inquire about donating two plots — one belonging to herself and another to her brother — to a family affected by COVID-19, according to charging documents. The two plots were worth nearly $11,000. The woman talked to Zelch on the phone.

“Zelch told (the woman) he knew a needy family and would take care of all transfers and fees,” the charges state.

The woman told police she signed a deed to donate the two plots, though the “ownership recipient portion was blank.” Police say she then received an email “acknowledging her donation of the two plots.”

In February, the woman contacted the cemetery again to obtain a tax ID number for her donation but soon discovered that “Zelch had kept the plots and sold them for profit,” according to the charges.

An internal investigation was conducted and concluded that Zelch had sold the plots on his own in October for $4,500, the charges say, and Valley View Memorial Park did not receive any money. Those documents were then turned over to West Valley police to conduct a criminal investigation.