Coronavirus News: Director says he's a scapegoat in disturbing Brooklyn funeral home discovery

COVID-19 News and Information
BROOKLYN, New York (WABC) -- A Brooklyn funeral director shares his take on a disturbing discovery that grabbed the city's attention during the height of the pandemic.

"I was the only funeral director during this pandemic who was singled out!" Andrew Cleckley said.

He's the owner of the funeral home that grabbed the city's attention during the peak of the COVID crisis, for all the wrong reasons.

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As COVID deaths hit staggering numbers, horrifying images surfaced from Cleckley's funeral home in the Flatlands section of Brooklyn.

Images of a hundred corpses, wrapped in body bags, stacked on top of one another and loaded into two UHaul trucks.

The stench of decomposing bodies could be smelled for weeks, leading to complaints.

Then the city and state shut it down.

But Cleckley says he's a scapegoat.

"I was still storing remains as much as I could on the refrigerated truck," Cleckley said. "There were other directors who had UHaul trucks but not myself."

Cleckley says five other funeral directors at the time were operating out of his location, sharing his space.

But now he says the state, after suspending his license, is recommending that his license be revoked permanently.

Cleckley says he trusted inspectors to do their jobs.

"They didn't make any attempts to see who the remains belonged to, whether they were mine or whether they were other funeral directors. They did nothing," Cleckley said.

Funeral home manager Dwayne Price says families did not sit down with him or Cleckley, to sign contracts and pay them.

"They paid other funeral homes. So these funeral directors are in charge of the burials, the cremations, the arrangements, the caskets," Price said.

Price is Cleckley's brother. He says to look at who the families of the deceased are suing.

"Not one of them has come after us legally," Price said. "The lawsuits that are coming are for other families, but Andrew's name is attached to it."

Cleckley says he believes that this was racially motivated.

"There's a white funeral home about 10-15 minutes away from me. They had the same problem, New York state gave them a phone call, gave them an admonishment and that was the end of it," Cleckley said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health says a final ruling has not yet been issued.

In the meantime, Cleckley says he doesn't know how he can pay for the $136,000 fine.

As a small business he says, he has no idea how much longer he can hang on for.

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