Tag Archives: funeral scandals

Funeral Director Charged After Stealing Thousands From Grieving Widow: Police Suspect More Victims

Louisville, Kentucky

While this story broke earlier, police believe there may be more victims and are asking them to come forward

A funeral home director is facing charges after police say she stole thousands of dollars from an elderly widow.

According to Louisville Metro Police, the funeral director, Maureen Purcell, met the 89-year-old victim when she came into Ratterman Brothers Funeral Home in St. Matthews. Police say the victim went there to have her husband’s remains cremated. They say Purcell then befriended the woman, knowing she had no family nearby.

Police say Purcell was able to get power of attorney over the victim, and at that point started stealing from her almost every day.

Purcell was released from jail on her own recognizance. Police say she admitted to stealing $8,000 out of the $10,000 that she’s charged with.

The Ratterman Brothers Funeral Home says they are completely surprised by the arrest. Purcell has a bad credit history, and has had several lawsuits filed against her.


Another Preneed Funeral Scandal: State Accuses California Funeral Trust of Mismanagement

Sacramento, California

State regulators Monday filed a lawsuit against one of California’s largest funeral trusts, claiming that millions of dollars worth of customers’ money has been “misused, misspent, and mismanaged,” according to the Department of Consumer Affairs. 

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, names the California Master Trust as the defendant.  It seeks to take over control of the trust, oust the current directors, and force those currently in control to repay $14 million in missing trust funds.

The trust is one of the nation’s largest administrators of pre-need funeral plans — funeral services paid for while the buyer is still alive. Those plans are sold by individual funeral homes, with the payments held by the trust. 

Administrators illegally used those payments to pay more than $4 million in kickbacks to funeral homes in order to make sure their plans were sold to customers, according to the lawsuit. 


What Happened To Funeral Consumer Advocate R. Brian Burkhardt?

R. Brian Burkhardt aka Your Funeral Guy

Robert Brian Burkhardt, the funeral director who wrote the Your Funeral Guy blog, died after a heart attack on January 19, 2011. He was 58 years old.

In a sad irony, while he was a crusader for funeral consumers, he left his family totally unprepared – no life insurance, no wishes to follow, no computer passwords on file.

Under the nom de plume R. Brian Burkhardt, to distinguish himself from others with the same name, his Your Funeral Guy blog challenged the practices of the funeral industry, from suppliers to funeral homes to cemeteries.

He wrote about wide cost variations for funeral products and services, news, scams and trends in the funeral industry, and he reviewed funeral related books. He started the blog in November 2007 and his last posting was January 17, 2011.

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Houston Texas Cemetery Admits To Flubbed Grave Plots

Houston, Texas

Several children’s graves may be mismarked and their families may not even know about it. The problem is at the Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery, owned by Service Corporation International (SCI Hispana), in southeast Houston.

This all came to light because of one Houston-area family. They started asking probing questions about their own loved ones gravesite. They’d been visiting it for years. They planned to place a headstone on the grave.

Their plans suddenly changed when they say a cemetery employee told them they’ve been visiting the wrong grave all this time. Farrell was furious.

“Where I was sitting was someone else’s little girl,” LeAnne Farrell said.

When we first asked general manager John Krasnick questions, he wasn’t eager to answer them.

Farrell says she was told her son’s grave is marked correctly but that several other children’s graves may not be.


Trouble Again in Chicago Cemetery: More Bodies Found Dumped at Burr Oak Cemetery

Chicago, Illinois

A number of bodies were found in a back section of the troubled Burr Oak cemetery in Chicago, according to reports, remains which were allegedly dumped by the cemetery’s owners.

“There are more people listed as being buried in the cemetery than can physically be buried based on space,” Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart told NBC Chicago March 21.

Chicago-based company Archaeological Research Inc. surveyed the cemetery and found that bodies were buried in a previously unused portion of the cemetery in ground that was littered with broken headstones, branches, leaves and excess soil.

In a statement released to the press, lawyers for Perpetua Holdings, the company responsible for Burr Oak, said that this development is not unusual and they plan to fight the allegations.

“In the case of a cemetery as old as Burr Oak Cemetery, it is not uncommon for such an area to contain some human and wooden coffin remains,” the statement said. “Prior to the use of concrete vaults, these wooden coffins deteriorated very quickly.”

The African-American community in Chicago is particularly outraged over the developments because Burr Oak was one of the first cemeteries in the city to allow Blacks to be buried.

“There has to be complete closure for these families,” Dart continued. “The only way to do that is to forever designate that back area as a memorial to all the people who are there and who may be there.”

In July 2009, the cemetery’s manager Carolyn Towns, along with workers Keith Nicks, Terrence Nicks and Maurice daily were charged with dismembering human bodies.

According to reports, the cemetery is searching for a new owner. If one isn’t found, the government may have to take ownership of the cemetery.


A Nightmare Funeral, Casket Falls Into Grave

Bradenton, Florida

The Washington Family was already in mourning after having lost the man they called Pops. Then at his burial, something happened that they say you only see in horror movies.

It’s a nightmare that Bradenton resident Kimberly Washington wishes wasn’t real. “I can’t sleep. My mind is constantly thinking about it.”

Her father, the man she calls her best friend passed away two weeks ago. On Saturday, the final goodbyes took place at Eugene Washington’s burial. “My whole world feels like it is falling apart.”

But as a home video shows, seconds after the casket was placed above the grave, it tipped over and fell to the ground. “To see that casket fall is something out of a horror movie,” says Washington.

ABC 7 contacted the cemetery where the burial took place and they say the situation happened as a result of a malfunction with the casket’s lowering device. The cemetery is in the process of contacting the manufacturer of the lowering device. They say nothing like this has ever happened before.

Source and Video

Widow Suing Houston-Based Funeral Corporation, SCI, for $16M for Gross Misconduct

Nashville, Tennessee

Conduct of national company’s local workers called ‘outrageous, grossly negligent’.

A Nashville woman is seeking $16 million in damages for alleged “outrageous, grossly negligent, indecent, reckless” conduct by a death care services provider.

Sharon McNabb filed suit against SCI Tennessee Funeral Services (Houston-based Service Corporation International) (NYSE:SCI) in Davidson County Circuit Court this week, claiming the company’s local workers botched burial arrangements for her deceased husband and “talked her into” cremating his body.

According to the complaint, Andrew Raymond McNabb had purchased a plot at Woodlawn Memorial Park from Woodlawn Funeral Home in 1989. After his death on Dec. 17, Sharon arranged for a Dec. 20 viewing and Dec. 21 service at Eastland Funeral Home before the interment at Woodlawn Memorial Park.

The arrangements were proceeding according to plan until SCI workers notified the McNabb family — during the funeral service — that they in fact had no burial plot at Woodlawn and said the “best thing” to do was cremate the body. According to the complaint, McNabb consented, though she was “completely distraught” and “heavily sedated” at the time.

Then, more than a week after the cremation, McNabb received a notice from the Tennessee National Guard War Records Section that her husband was a veteran and was eligible for burial at the VA Cemetery — notice that SCI had received the day before the funeral.

“Instead of telling her that he could be buried in a VA Cemetery, SCI staff talked her into letting them cremate him for a fee, when at the time it should have been obvious that she was suffering from great emotional distress,” the complaint reads. “This conduct was outrageous, grossly negligent, indecent, reckless, and willful and the kind that is not tolerated by civilized society.”