Death isn’t what is expected in this CBC hidden camera investigation of the death industry:
Death isn’t what is expected in this CBC hidden camera investigation of the death industry:
A couple that owned a cemetery in Delaware, Ohio has been charged with dozens of counts of theft from customers, allegedly for taking money for grave markers and other services that were never provided.
Ted Martin and Myndi Martin were charged in a 54-count indictment last week, accused of taking money from at least 44 families and never delivering on their promises. (The charges were later updated to 80 counts involving 67 victims.)
They owners of the financially troubled cemetery were previously investigated by tax authorities for failure to pay more than $120,000 in federal taxes.
According to ABC6 TV news, which began a year-long investigation after a complaint from an unhappy customer, the Martins pled guilty last year to income tax evasion for hiding income from the three cemeteries they owned.
“Myndi is currently serving her sentence. Ted is supposed to start his in August. They also face felony charges in Portage County and in York County, Pennsylvania,” the TV station reported last Friday.
The Martins owned the Fairview Memorial Park in Delaware, Ohio, Grandview Memorial Park in Ravenna, Ohio, and Suburban Memorial Gardens in Dover, Pennyslvania.
Delaware County Prosecutor Carol O’Brien told the ABC6 that the Martins victimized at least 44 families who pre-paid for grave markers, grave spaces and vaults which they never received.
“I can’t imagine anything worse than when a loved one dies, the loved one or those around them have taken the time to prepare for something like this and realize that you have to go through it all again and you have to come up with the money and you have to go through the picking out of all the casket and the grave marker and all of that again,” O’Brien told the TV station. “It’s just heinous.”
ABC6 reported that “during an exclusive interview earlier this month, Ted Martin blamed his troubles on the previous owner, whom Martin said had hid financial problems.” To take care of families, Martin admitted to “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” it reported.
The TV station began its investigation of the cemetery owners after a complaint from the family of Tom Murfield, who died two years ago. The Murfields had pre-paid for a permanent grave memorial decades ago but it was never delivered.
According to the Record-Courier newspaper in Ohio, a grand jury last year handed up a 24-count indictment against the couple in relation to Grandview Memorial Park cemetery in Ravenna, Ohio.
The couple were charged in relation to that cemetery with “crimes related to the operation of the cemetery, including multiple counts of tampering with records; failure to establish a cemetery trust fund; failure to deposit sales proceeds into a cemetery trust; failure to appoint cemetery trustees; failure to file annual reports and affidavits and misdemeanor charges of failure to register a cemetery,” the Record-Courier reported.
The allegations against the Martins should remind customers to know where documents are located for pre-paid funeral services before a loved one dies so you can carry out their wishes without going through further grief and stress.
The funeral industry has billions of dollars worth of pre-paid funeral services, which are required by law to be kept in trust until the customer dies.
Also be aware of what services have been pre-paid for. Some funeral homes will try to “upsell” grieving customers into upgrading caskets and other services not originally contemplated.
U.S. funeral services consumers should go to the Funeral Consumers Alliance for more information.
Pre-paid funeral services are called “pre-need” services in British Columbia and are regulated under the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act. The industry is also regulated under the Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act.
Those laws are administered by staff working in the B.C. Consumer Protection Branch, which has a website informing cemetery and funeral service consumers of their rights: https://www.consumerprotectionbc.ca/cemetery-funeralservice-portal
The Consumer Protection Branch also has the power to impose fines against funeral service providers for violating regulations in B.C..
The branch recently imposed a $1,000 fine against a Chilliwack funeral service provider, McLean’s Funeral Services & Crematorium, and a compliance order that they abide by the law after finding McLean’s “provided funeral services without the written authorization from the person who, under section 5 of CIFSA [control of disposition of human remains or cremated remains] has the right to control the disposition of the human remains, contrary to section 8(1) of the CIFSA.”
That decision is online here.
Fischer’s Funeral Services & Crematorium Ltd., located in Salmon Arm, BC., was also recently fined $800 for violating consumer protection laws, and Arbor Memorial Inc. (doing business as Richmond Funeral Home Cremation & Reception Centre) was fined $500 for violating consumer protection laws.
Also, Squamish Funeral Chapel & Crematorium was recently fined $100 for violating consumer protection laws involving a pre-need contract and another $100 fine for “failing to include a space for the written acknowledgement by the consumer that the consumer had received the information required by section 35 to be disclosed, contrary to section 36 (1)(d) of the BPCP Act.”
This site is dedicated to the memory of our mother, Holly Haliburton, who died four years ago this month. We established this website after having a bad experience with a North Vancouver funeral home. You can read more here about what happened
Another B.C. family is suing a funeral home, alleging their 90-year-old mother was cremated against the family’s wishes before they could say goodbye at a memorial service and before an autopsy could be performed.
The civil lawsuit was filed last summer in B.C. Supreme Court by John Danylowich, and his sisters Jo-Ann Dabbs, Carolyn Clark and Lynda Chilton. Their lawsuit alleges Service Corporation International Canada, which operated the Pleasant Valley Funeral Home in Vernon, B.C., was negligent and contravened the Cremation, Internment and Funeral Services Act.
Below is the story in The Vancouver Sun last year, which details how things went horribly wrong for the family of Kae Danylowich:
“The family claims they were told by the funeral home that they could dress their mother, Kathleen (Kae) Danylowich, in her best clothes and keep her there as long as possible while an autopsy and toxicology report was done as part of a wrongful death suit they were considering against the Interior Health Authority.”
Although the family had planned to eventually cremate Kae, they said they were surprised it was done before the autopsy or even a service was held.
“The whole thing is so bizarre,” John Danylowich told The Vancouver Sun. “With no service, none of us got to see her. She was transferred to Armstrong in her pyjamas … a woman who took such good care of herself.”
The situation was exacerbated, the family added, when then-funeral home general manager Doug Sharpe allegedly passed Danylowich and Clark an envelope with a $300 cheque and promised them an “urn of their choice.” They refused and later rejected an offer of $600, according to the statement of facts filed in court.
“We were robbed of a proper goodbye and that our mom was not given the honour or dignity she deserved,” the court document stated.
The siblings say they have suffered anguish, sleeplessness and anxiety, and are seeking compensation and general and punitive damages, not only from the funeral home but from Interior Health and Dr. Allen Hignell, for what they allege was the wrongful death of their mother.
None of the allegations have yet to be proven in court.
In an email to Postmedia News, Service Corporation International said: “Out of respect for the privacy of the families we serve, we are unable to share any details regarding this situation.” Interior Health also declined to comment because it has not been served with notice of the lawsuit, said spokesman Karl Hardt.
Kae, a cancer sufferer with minor dementia, had been slated to spend a few weeks at Kelowna’s Cottonwoods Care Centre, run by Interior Health, while Danylowich, her main caregiver, was in the U.S. on a business and pleasure trip.
Danylowich gave strict instructions to staff: His mother must maintain her daily routine — including exercise on a stationary foot-pedal bike — and not change her medication without his consent. She was also not to take Aspirin or Tylenol because she was extremely sensitive to those drugs and would sleep all day. His sisters would check in constantly.
“My mom had been challenged with cancer but we had it under control,” Danylowich said. “She was doing fabulous, she was enjoying her life.”
The family claims they were assured their care plan would be met. But shortly after being admitted on June 29, 2014, Kae’s health rapidly declined, the family alleges, and, two weeks later, she wouldn’t eat or drink and was barely responsive, spending most of her time in bed in a fetal position.
When Dabbs allegedly found out from a nurse that Kae had been given extra-strength Tylenol, the family immediately moved her to a private care facility in Lake Country, where she started to recover, the writ states.
However, Kae died on July 27, 2014.
“All of us knew our mom really well,” Danylowich said. “She didn’t even have an Aspirin or she would be out for the day.”
The suit against Interior Health and Hignell alleges everything from flagrant disregard of their mother’s care plan to egregious changes to medication without approval, drug overdosing, neglect and breach of trust. It also alleges Hignell showed reprehensible misconduct, breach of duty and failing to follow through regarding symptoms.
The family says they had to fight to get Kae’s medical records and allege that their mother, who weighed only 80 pounds, was prescribed 10 times the morphine she had initially been taking.
“Who really is watching the doctors with these people who are marginalized, the seniors?” Danylowich said. “There are no measures in place.”
His sisters say they suffer feelings of anguish and devastation, and don’t feel they’ve had a chance to properly mourn their mother. Danylowich said Kae had enjoyed living on the lake, where she would use her foot-pedal machine daily and reward herself with a rum and cola in the afternoon.
“Sometimes I think that’s lost in the big care picture, that this is a person who has a family,” he said.
(This website was created to boost consumer awareness about the funeral industry and to try to educate consumers when dealing with the death industry.)
An anguished and frustrated family is planning to sue the Valley View Funeral Home in Surrey, B.C., for a burial mix-up involving their grandmother, who was buried in a less expensive casket than the $4,000 oak casket that she had pre-paid for years before she died last July at the age of 95.
Click here to read today’s full story in the Surrey Now newspaper by Tom Zytaruk.
The family of Ester Verdant had asked the funeral home to check whether Ester had pre-paid for a casket, but the home could find no record of it, the family said.
The family later learned that not only had Verdant bought an oak casket for $3,936 in 2002 from the funeral home, which was paid for by monthly instalments, but Verdant had also pre-paid for her funeral service through a monthly life insurance policy.
The family only recently learned about the pre-existing contracts while going through Verdant’s personal papers after her burial, the deceased’s granddaughter, Maria Thelle Kim, told the Surrey Now.
When the family contacted the funeral home with this upsetting news, the funeral home director was “very apologetic” and offered to pay out the amounts received for the casket and funeral services, but the family said it wasn’t sufficient, considering Verdant had been buried in the “wrong” casket, causing the surviving family members “much emotional distress and sleepless nights unnecessarily.”
The lesson for family members: Be aware if a loved one has a pre-paid contract for funeral services, and know where that contract is located to avoid similar grief as this family suffered.
A cemetery owned by Texas-based Service Corp. International has screwed up again, causing another grieving family further grief.
It happened earlier this month in Louisville, Kentucky, where Bill Dudley‘s 95-year-old mother, Nana Dudley, who died earlier this month, was supposed to be buried in the prepaid plot beside her late husband, Jack Dudley Sr.
Instead, a day after Mother’s Day, family members learned that someone else had been buried in their mother’s prepaid plot beneath a double headstone beside their father.
His mother had to be buried elsewhere in Evergreen Cemetery.
This wasn’t the first screw-up involving a member of the Dudley family.
In 2013, Dudley’s niece had to be buried in another grave because of the same problem — someone had been buried in her plot, located next to Dudley’s parents.
“Long story short, it happened to my family twice,” Bill Dudley recently told USA Today. (You can read the story here, which includes a video interview with Dudley.)
His father’s reburial, to be accompanied by a military salute, will ensure that his mom and dad are together as they wanted, the story said.
“We deeply apologize for this situation,” the cemetery’s general manager, Jim McCaskey, said in a statement issued by Dignity Memorial corporate communications in Houston, Texas, the report said.
The company is owned by Service Corporation International (SCI), North America’s largest provider of funeral and cemetery services, which owns many of the funeral homes and cemeteries in the Vancouver area and across Canada.
SCI owned the funeral home that our own family had a bad experience with — they took our mother’s body from the St. Paul’s Hospital morgue without our permission.
You can read about our family’s story by clicking here. Earlier this year, we filed legal action over the incident and filed complaints with Consumer Protection BC, which regulates the funeral industry in British Columbia, Canada.
We launched this website last year in memory of our mother, Holly Haliburton, 95, who died two years ago in Vancouver. We also wanted to educate the public about consumer protection rights involving the funeral industry.
A story aired tonight on KIRO TV news about the lawsuit filed by Brian and Randy Moon. Click here to watch the story.
It is the second multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the cemetery, which is owned by Texas-based funeral giant Service Corp. International (SCI), which owns a string of cemeteries and funeral homes in the Vancouver area, and across Canada and the U.S.
The cemetery contains the graves of Groucho Marx, Lenny Bruce and numerous Hollywood celebrities.
Last year, SCI settled with families in a previous case for $80.5 million for similar complaints at the same cemetery.
The latest lawsuit alleges family members who buried loved ones at Eden Memorial were not told when they bought plots that cemetery groundskeepers were instructed to make new graves fit, even if it required breaking outer burial containers in neighbouring graves.
The lawsuit alleges that digging between graves caused remains to be disturbed, which were disposed of in a cemetery “dump” in another part of the cemetery.
The civil lawsuit was filed last week in Los Angeles Superior Court last week. More than 60 plaintiffs claim Eden Memorials was negligent and interfered with the dignified disposal of human remains.
The plaintiffs also allege fraud and are seeking damages for emotional distress for destroying graves and discarding human bones in a cemetery “dump” to make room for new burial plots.
“Current and former groundskeepers at the cemetery have admitted that breaking burial vaults will often cause human remains to spill out of the broken vaults,” alleges the lawsuit, according to an L.A. Daily Times story.
“In such situations, the groundskeepers were instructed by their supervisors to throw away the bones and other remains in the Cemetery Dump located on the cemetery premises,” the legal action claims.
SCI has faced a number of class-action lawsuit in the past that have alleged misconduct. The company reached out-of-court settlements before the cases were decided.
In 2003, SCI paid a $14-million settlement to end a $100 million in a civil class-action that alleged grave desecration at Menorah Gardens cemetery in South Florida.
And this is a company that uses “Dignity” as its flagship brand in the funeral industry. (You’ll notice the Dignity brand at the entrance to Eden Memorial Park in the photo above.)
Our family recently filed a lawsuit against a local SCI-owned funeral home, First Memorial Funeral Services, which took the body of our 95-year-old mother, Holly Haliburton, from St. Paul’s Hospital morgue without our signed consent (which is legally required) or even our verbal permission.
To this day, neither First Memorial nor SCI has offered us an apology or a written explanation of how this horrible situation arose, causing our grief to be prolonged.
On the first anniversary of our mother’s passing, we established this website to both honour our mother and to provide consumer rights advice and increase public awareness of the funeral industry.
We also support the Memorial Society of B.C., a non-profit organization formed more than 55 years ago to help its members to plan funerals that are simple, dignified and affordable. It has more than 200,000 members.
For more info on SCI’s past and the funeral industry, watch this 60 Minutes segment from 2013, by Anderson Cooper:The transcript of the segment and related videos are here.
Bloomberg also did a story on SCI two years ago, which is here.
After a complaint about a Haida Gwaii man performing funeral services without a licence, Consumer Protection BC sent George Westwood a letter, informing him how he could become licenced.
Consumer Protection BC oversees the funeral industry in the province of British Columbia, Canada.
Westwood, however, said he only had been trying to help families for 30 years living on the northern coastal island because the nearest funeral home was in Prince Rupert. He said he wasn’t interested in doing it as a job.
“Truthfully I’m hurt to the core,” Westwood told CBC news.
“When you give so much of yourself and someone comes up and kicks you in the ribs, it’s just like, ‘Is this really what we’ve become, this is how low we’ve stooped?’ That you cannot help your neighbour when they’re at their worst, they need it most? And you need a piece of paper to be able do that?
“Burying the dead is one of the basic obligations of humanity,” he said. “You can tell a great deal about society with how they deal with their dead.”
The CBC story is here.
A blog by the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA), a non-profit group that is a funeral consumers watchdog in the U.S., mentioned the lawsuit recently filed by the Haliburton family in Vancouver, Canada, concerning a funeral home incident involving their 95-year-old mother, Holly Haliburton, who died two years ago. Click here to see what was written by executive director Josh Slocum.
The FCA website provides some interesting articles about funeral services and the industry in the U.S.. It recently provided advice to people who can’t afford a funeral and also shared this Detroit Free Press story about do-it-yourself funerals in your own home.
The Funeral Consumers Alliance also recently noted a new memorial trend in England to use cremation ashes in a tattoo to honour the memory of a loved one. You can read that story here.
Another trend is for green burials (environmentally friendly). You can read more about this on the website established by the Green Burial Council in the U.S., which also includes a list of green burial providers in B.C.
Last year, The Atlantic did a story on those seeking a greener approach to funeral and burial services. And the David Suzuki Foundation’s “Queen of Green” has written about green funerals and burials here.
Funeralwatchdog highly recommends joining the The Memorial Society of B.C., a non-profit organization formed in 1956 to help its members plan funerals that are simple, dignified and affordable. For a $40 lifetime membership, members can save up to 40% on cremation and services. More information is available on the MSBC website here or by calling MSBC at 1-888-816-5902.
The North Shore News also did a story this weekend on the Haliburton case. That story is here.
We have filed a lawsuit against a funeral home and its parent company for removing the body of our 95-year-old mother, Holly Haliburton, from the morgue of St. Paul’s Hospital without our permission.
The hospital and its board, Providence Health Care, are also named as defendants in the legal action, filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. The other defendants are the funeral home, First Memorial Funeral Services, and its parent company, Service Corporation International (SCI), the funeral industry giant that is based in Houston, Texas.
Our court action alleges the defendants were negligent and did not follow the regulations requiring signed consent before Holly’s body was removed from the morgue the day before we had a scheduled meeting to discuss prices with First Memorial, which had refused to discuss the price of a cremation over the phone and insisted we attend a meeting at the funeral home. After the meeting, we decided to hire A Basic Cremation (ABC) to handle the cremation service. But when ABC went to pick up Holly’s body, it wasn’t at the morgue — it had already been removed by First Memorial.
Stories on our lawsuit appeared today in a number of media outlets, including The Vancouver Sun. Click here to read the latest story by Sun reporter Lori Culbert. And you can read the original Sun story, written in 2013, by clicking here. CTV News ran a story today by The Canadian Press. Click here to read that story.
Here are a few photos of Holly over the years: