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A former funeral home owner in Millbrook, Ontario — which is south of Peterborough — recently pleaded guilty of defrauding his customers of about $120,000. The fraud was related to customers’ prepaid funeral contracts. As per legislation, money from customers was not placed into trust accounts and some prepaid contracts from this funeral home had forged signatures. The owner was sentenced to a year of house arrest.

Similar cases have also made the news. One was in Winnipeg, where a funeral home was accused of faking death certificates to get payouts from insurance companies and also did not put customers’ money into trust accounts. Police said the total amount taken from victims was $35,000. Another involved funeral homes in southwestern Ontario, who defrauded customers of almost $400,000.

While not every funeral home is corrupt or mismanaged, and prepaid funeral arrangement fraud is rare, these three recent stories put a spotlight on the funeral home industry and the potential for fraud involving pre-paid funeral plans.

What Can Happen if I’m Accused of Fraud?

The Bereavement Authority of Ontario (BAO), the organization that oversees funeral homes in the province, can revoke your licence to be a funeral home director. You will be able to re-apply for a licence after a two-year period, but any allegations of misappropriating funds can be very difficult to overcome in the industry. Your reputation in the funeral home industry in Ontario would be at risk.

Beyond the revocation of your licence, that you can face criminal charges for such things as:

  • Fraud over $5,000.
  • Theft over $5,000.
  • Using forged documents.
  • Breach of trust.

Some of the penalties for these crimes are quite stiff. Breach of trust carries a maximum 14-year prison sentence for one. You may be ordered to pay restitution or repay the money lost by victim, or perform community service for fraud over $5,000 — and, if you show no remorse for your crime, the Crown will likely pursue aggressive jail time. The likelihood that you will go to prison for your crime may be based on how much money is involved and whether or not you are facing multiple charges, or are required to repay the money, especially if one of them is breach of trust. All things considered, charges will depend on whether or not there are aggravating circumstances surrounding your case.

Basically, it comes down to this: you need to protect your reputation so you aren’t unwillingly forced into another area of employment and you will want to ensure that someone is defending your best interests so that you don’t face a serious amount of jail time. This is where working with a criminal defence lawyer can help.

In the case of the Millbrook funeral home owner, the defence was able to show that the accused expressed remorse for his actions. He pled guilty to avoid a lengthy drawn out trial for his victims and had attempted to repay the funds. While the Crown was seeing jail time, the judge accepted this apology and noted the actions to make restitution, which resulted in the house arrest.

This Millbrook case is a perfect example of how a good lawyer can help you provide evidence that you are willing to make amends. It could be the difference between a lighter sentence or no sentence at all, or one that could bury you and your reputation in your chosen field.

Have You Been Charged with Funeral Home Fraud?

If you don’t have a lawyer and are facing funeral home fraud charges, Armoured Suits Criminal Defence Lawyers offers a complimentary 30-minute private consultation. Contact Armoured Suits by phone at 613-233-0008 or e-mail at yourteam@armouredsuits.ca to book your meeting.