A former Kentucky funeral director has been charged with multiple felony preneed thefts, some of which occurred 25 years ago. Various news sources report that Donald Creech began pocketing consumer preneed payments as early as 1996. The consumer preneed payments were to have been forwarded to the Kentucky Funeral Directors Association’s master trust. Until he was forced out of the business in 2016, Mr. Creech is believed to have kept approximately $250,000 of consumer funds.
Preneed fraud is difficult to detect when a funeral director files the contract in a ‘special drawer’. So long as the funeral director continues to own and operate the business, he will service the contract when there’s a death and no one is the wiser. But if there is a change of ownership or control of the funeral home, the unfunded contract will come to the surface upon the contract beneficiary’s death. That can be many years after the contract was sold, or as in Mr. Creech’s case, years after he was forced out of the business.
The statute of limitations for preneed theft does not begin to run until the fraud is discovered. Although the theft may not be discovered until the family requests the prearranged funeral, prosecutors need not wait until there is a death to prosecute. A key element for preneed fraud prosecution is the state law requiring the consumer funds be deposited to trust or remitted to an insurance company. Local prosecutors may perceive that a fraud is dependent upon the consumer being denied their prearranged funeral. However, the fraud is complete when the preneed seller fails to deposit or remit the funds pursuant to the state preneed law.