A former mortician who took more than $48,000 from more than a dozen elderly Santa Barbara residents pleaded guilty Friday to counts of theft from an elder and grand theft.

Gregory Calderon, a former church deacon, Santa Barbara Police chaplain, and Cottage Hospital security guard, will have to pay restitution to his victims and will receive five years of felony probation as well as up to a year in County Jail, said Senior Deputy DA Brian Cota. Calderon — who will be sentenced on October 26 — pleaded to 17 felony counts and one misdemeanor count of theft from an elder, and one count of felony grand theft.

The charges came after the state revoked his license and he didn’t return money to clients that had been in their funeral home accounts. State officials cited his Calderon Funeral Home for multiple cases of gross negligence, according to an earlier Santa Barbara Independent report, and noted he improperly stored bodies that had begun to decompose. He closed his business not long after, and promised to return money to clients. He didn’t, apparently, and instead, according to one victim, cut off contact with “no explanation, no apology, and no money.”

Senior Deputy Public Defender Jeff Chambliss said Calderon wanted to put this behind him and make whole the people he owes money. “He just thought [pleading] was the best thing to do,” Chambliss said, adding that Calderon has already paid some of the victims.


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