Over the past few years, preneed frauds have been measured in terms of hundreds of millions (with the suggestion that the NPS loss will top a billion). And, funeral directors and consumers have been frustrated by the perception that regulators are helpless to stop preneed fraud. Apparently, one local prosecutor from Texas took notice.
When the Texas preneed regulator and Attorney General failed to address an $8,000 fraud, the Galveston County prosecutor obtained a grand jury indictment against a Texas funeral director for the misappropriation of preneed funds. Generally, the prosecution of preneed fraud falls to the death care regulator and/or the state attorney general. Realizing that state coffers may be lean for years to come, legislatures such as Missouri’s are granting local prosecutors concurrent jurisdiction to prosecute preneed law violations.
The prospect of prosecution by a district attorney with no prior experience interpreting an ambiguous preneed statute was sufficient reason for funeral directors to oppose legislation that authorized concurrent jurisdiction. However, circumstances such as those in Missouri and Illinois have opened the door for comprehensive reform legislation, and concurrent jurisdiction.
When the attorney general may lack the resources to prosecute an $8,000 preneed fraud, the local prosecutor, looking to make a name for himself/herself, can initiate a prosecution of the wayward funeral director by using statutes such as Missouri’s Chapter 436.