Funeral home may have pocketed advance money, W. Va. AG says

Funeral processionWest Virginia's attorney general says a funeral home should be found in contempt of court and its owners fined or jailed after missing a deadline to pay back thousands of dollars it collected in advance contracts for funeral expenses.

Mr. Blue Inc., which does business in Mason, W. Va., as Foglesong Tucker Funeral Home, and its officers, Jerry W. Tucker and Ray A. Tucker, didn't make its first payment to customers -- $140,000 -- that it was ordered to make by June 3, says the Attorney General's office. The payment was part of a settlement reached April 23 between the funeral home and the state.

The state alleged the funeral home "misappropriated" more than $151,000 over several years. In the settlement, the funeral home agreed to refund consumers' money with interest -- a total of $175,000.

In West Virginia, funeral homes need a state certificate to sell "preneed" contracts, a sort of escrow payment for a future funeral. All payments must be disclosed to the state and the cash kept in a separate account until the consumer's time of need.

Attempts to reach the Tuckers for comment were unsuccessful.

The state's court petition also asked that the funeral home's owners be fined or imprisoned unless they turn over a list of all its preneed contract deposits and make all payments, The state asks that consumers suspect they have an issue with the funeral home to contact the Attorney General 's consumer hot line at (800) 368-8808 or (304) 558-8986.
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