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Michigan funeral home director accused of embezzling escrow funds

There are professions in Michigan that involve holding customers’ money for them, perhaps for years. When clients’ money is being held in escrow, certain laws govern how that money must be taken care of, and when it can be transferred into the business’ name. When a business or individual is accused of violating those laws, white-collar criminal charges could result.

For example, the owner of a Michigan funeral home is facing felony charges and accusations that he embezzled money collected for prepaid funerals. If convicted, the 68-year-old defendant could face up to 35 years in prison.

The embezzlement charges are based on an investigation that began with an audit of the defendant’s funeral home. Michigan’s Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, or LARA, looked into the home’s prepaid funeral contracts in November 2013. LARA says that the defendant failed to submit annual financial reports on those prepaid contracts from 2006 to 2012.

Perhaps more seriously, LARA accused the defendant of not holding funds from 174 prepaid funeral contracts in escrow, as required by law. Under the law, the funds are supposed to be put in escrow or a third-party insurance policy within 30 days. The money does not go to the funeral home until after services are rendered.

The total amount of money alleged by prosecutors to be missing is a little more than $600,000. The defendant has been charged with embezzlement of more than $100,000 and of more than $50,000 in separate felony charges. In addition, LARA suspended his funeral home’s license and registration in January.

As the length of the potential sentence in this case shows, white collar charges are very serious. Anyone charged with embezzlement or similar crimes needs to speak to a defense attorney as soon as possible.

Source: MLive.com, “Michigan Attorney General charges Standish funeral home owner with embezzlement,” Cole Waterman, April 16, 2014

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