Forest Hills’ preneed consumers were hoping for news of retribution, but Clayton Smart’s anticipated plea bargain was put on hold. If news reports are accurate, authorities from Tennessee (and perhaps Michigan and Indiana) have their sites on the individual(s) who facilitated the transactions that eventually left preneed trusts and permanent maintenance trusts depleted.

For the past few years, Mr. Smart has sat in jail while authorities built their cases. Until recently, Mr. Smart had not even employed an attorney. In what may be tipping his hand, Smart’s attorney now suggests his client has paid a steep price through incarceration. If Forest Hills consumers had their way, Mr. Smart would be condemned to a much warmer, and eternal, confinement.

It is most likely that Mr. Smart has been making his deal through testimony given, and to be given, with respect to his transactions in Michigan and Tennessee. Mr. Smart’s Michigan caper has been detailed by the Detroit Business Journal in an article titled The Grave Robbers. CNNMoney has also chronicled the story.

By these accounts, Mr. Smart had no prior experience in either the funeral business or the cemetery business. Yet, with the help of ‘sophisticated financial advisors’, a self-promoting speculator exploited the laws meant to protect the consumers of both industries.

The Tennessee authorities cannot possibly make the Forest Hill consumers whole. When Smart took control of the Forest Hill preneed trust funds, its insurance investments were surrendered at substantial losses. Smart’s advisors wanted to put the money to better use. Consequently, the authorities need to make an example of Mr. Smart, and his friends. 

Those victimized by NPS (and the IFDA?) are hoping for some of the same justice. However, the issue of justice in Missouri is complicated by rumors of complicity between the preneed company and some of its industry members.