The South Bend Tribune has a disturbing report for folks who think they've taken care of the issues realting to the funeral part of their departure from this mortal coil. Pre-paid funeral services aren't such a great idea at least when you have pre-paid the Legacy Funeral Home in Berrien Springs, Michigan. This is from reporter, Tom Moor's report:
Police say dozens of people looking to gain some peace of mind by pre-paying for their funeral expenses have, instead, become the victims of a suspected embezzlement.
Det. Sgt. Fabian Suarez of the Michigan State Police Niles Post said Wednesday that at least 52 victims of the suspected embezzlement have already come forward and more soon could.
Police began investigating Legacy Family Funeral Services in June when a customer was unable to obtain refunds of pre-paid funeral arrangement money. The funds are required to be deposited into an escrow account within 30 days for use by the funeral home or to be returned to the customer at their request, Suarez said.
The Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth initiated an audit of the pre-paid funeral arrangement and pre-paid funeral insurance. But Suarez said Purchase was accepting money and putting it into a business account. Suarez added that the DLEG took away the funeral home's license on Wednesday, which essentially means the company is out of business.
Purchase, 40, of Berrien Springs, was arraigned Wednesday on 15 counts, which includes one count of criminal enterprise and 14 counts of embezzlement, said Mike Sepic, Berrien County assistant prosecutor. His bond was set at $500,000. Suarez said the amount of money embezzled also could increase significantly as the investigation furthers.
'It's taking advantage of people at a worse time when they think their funerals are paid for,' Suarez said. 'I've had to meet with people who don't have money there — it's gone.' A phone call to Legacy Family Funeral Services was taken by an answering service, in which a message was left for the owner.
When you think about all the scumbag attorneys we've talked about on Bad Lawyer who could not resist the temptation to take client funds deposited in lawyer trust accounts, I can't think of a more ripe area for abuse with even less scrutiny than these pre-paid funeral service plans. Maybe somebody out there who knows more about this industry can disabuse me. But really, who's looking over the shoulders of these operators? How are these funds accounted for? The only other person in the know about what was paid--usually dies before the services are rendered. So how are "bait and switch" types of scams prevented?