May 22, 2014
Funeral fraud? Undertaker accused of hiking gov't workers' burial bills
<André Williams, STAR Writer
img src="images/NewsS1602_1_PCMD3233281HK.jpg" >
The Fraud Squad is now investigating an allegation that a funeral home owner may be hiking the prices for the funerals of government workers in order to collect huge sums of money from the government.
Information reaching THE WEEKEND STAR is that one woman, who recently buried her deceased husband, reported that she was overcharged by the funeral home in order to collect extra money from the government, who was responsible for the funeral expenses
Our news team understands that the widow, who resides overseas, recently returned to the island to bury her husband who was a former government worker.
The woman, Charmaine Willis, told THE WEEKEND STAR, "I know say him did a rob me but if him did just give me my receipt when I asked for it I would be alright. A somebody refer me to him."
Willis said that from the start she knew she was being overcharged by the funeral home owner.
"My husband is not a big person and dem quoted me for an oversize casket - $270,000, to prepare the body - $80,000 ... wreath - $10,000. Death announcement - $6,000, and nothing came on air. They even added an Escalade to carry the body - $50,000, and there was no Escalade," Willis said.
THE WEEKEND STAR was told that the total cost quoted for the funeral was $560,000.
Willis further said that when she asked the 'handlers' of the funeral preparations why the cost was so high, she was told, "Just kool, mi ago give yuh a thing, if you did just talk sooner ..."
THE WEEKEND STAR was told that the Ministry of Finance, through the Accountant General's Department, was the agency that took care of the funeral bill.
"The funeral home told me that they only received $500,000 as payment. The week of the funeral I cashed out my husband's credit union shares. The cheque was made in the funeral home's name for $434,000. He (owner of funeral home) took the balance of $60,000 and handed me $374,000," she said.
Willis said that despite her request, the funeral home owner has failed to produce a receipt to show how much was acquired from the ministry to cover the funeral expense.
The widow said she was compelled to evaluate the cost and sent a family member under disguise to get a quote for the same type of burial. THE WEEKEND STAR was told that $335,000 was quoted as the price for a burial similar to her husband's own.
When contacted, Superintendent Anthony McCloughlin, head of the Fraud Squad, confirmed that a report was made to them and an investigation is under way.
He said, "I am aware of this incident, with us having one report ... It's rather unfortunate, however, I am not fully aware of the details involved in this instance."