A few weeks ago we reported on a legislative auditor’s recommendation to sunset the West Virginia Funeral Board because of its poor handling of consumer fraud complaints. Criticism of the Board focused primarily on the Harding Family Group matter, where Chad Harding had filed fraudulent insurance claims of almost $1 million. But, the auditor’s report also referenced a complaint against the Broyles-McGuire Funeral Home. Independent news reports suggest that Joel McGuire made fraudulent claims of almost $75,000. Accordingly to a recent press release, Mr. McGuire has since pled guilty to wire fraud and could face 20 years in federal prison. So, how is it that the funeral director who steals $1 million can avoid prison while the funeral director who steals $75,000 faces 20 years in the slammer? Mr. Harding, with the assistance of an outside investor, restored the stolen funds. In contrast, Mr. McGuire locked his funeral home’s doors and fled the state.
With regard to either of these situations, the WV State Board never appears to have been an active player in seeking a workout plan that would protect the consumers. A plan to replace stolen consumer funds would be dependent upon the continued operation of the funeral home. That may also require leaving the funeral home in the control of the owner. The alternative would be a fire sale of the funeral home assets that would bring pennies on the dollar.
In its own defense, the WV Funeral Board claimed it is the last to learn of funeral directors’ fraudulent conduct, and suggested that it was conserving resources by waiting to take action after the conclusion of other agencies’ proceedings. Bull Hockey. For the protection of industry consumers, an industry board of funeral directors should assume a proactive role once fraud is discovered. Funeral directors will understand better than the Attorney General’s office about the value of a funeral home operation and whether a workout plan could be successful.