A preliminary hearing was held Monday in regard to the lawsuit that was filed in the Circuit Court of Mason County by Attorney General Darrel McGraw’s office against the funeral home. According to Assistant Attorney General Chris Hedges, more information has surfaced surrounding the case against Foglesong Tucker.
Hedges said a court order was issued Monday, which must be signed by the judge, to temporarily bar the funeral home from selling preneed contracts and receiving pre-payments.
The lawsuit also was filed against the funeral home’s president, Jerry Tucker, who serves as the mayor of the Town of Mason. The lawsuit alleges that the funeral home has misappropriated funds belonging to at least two consumers who paid in advance for funeral goods and services.
Currently, the funeral home holds at least $250,000 in preneed funeral contract funds, but is not licensed to perform the contracts, withdraw funds or accept prepayments from consumers.
According to Hedges, more consumers have reported that they did not know what happened to their money after investing with the funeral home.
“After the lawsuit was filed we only knew of a couple consumers. Thanks to people getting the word out, more consumers have started calling in after the case was filed,” Hedges said. “Since we keep copies of consumer records we were able to look up the information. We don’t know where the money is and contracts had not been sent in.”
He also said that when the funeral home was audited the documents had been omitted.
“Over this past week we’ve discovered more than $55,000 of money that is not on record,” Hedges said.
According to Hedges, any funeral home that accepts advance payments from consumers must obtain a certificate of authority to sell preneed funeral contracts, and all contracts and advance payments must be disclosed to the Attorney General’s Preneed Funeral Services Division in order for the handling of consumers’ funds to be monitored. Foglesong Tucker has not renewed its certificate of authority on several occasions, and a significant number of transactions and payments have gone unreported over the years.
Glenn Rowe, a resident of Mason and consumer of Foglesong Tucker Funeral Home, said that at this time he does not know what happened to his investment. According to Rowe, he bought a preneed contract from the funeral home, but McGraw’s office has no record of the purchase.
“I have a record (of the purchase) with a receipt, but there is no record on file with the attorney general’s office that they know of,” Rowe said. “I’ve got money invested and I don’t know where it’s at.”
Foglesong Tucker was first investigated by McGraw’s office in 2006 after the funeral home ignored licensing guidelines. The investigation revealed several contracts and payments from the funeral home’s customers that Foglesong Tucker failed to disclose to McGraw’s office. Foglesong Tucker was required to sign an agreement by which the proprietor paid the attorney general’s office all outstanding fees and promised to obey preneed funeral laws in the future.
In 2009, problems resurfaced when Foglesong Tucker allowed its license and certificate of authority to lapse. A subsequent audit revealed another set of contracts and payments that the funeral home had accepted without informing McGraw’s office. Foglesong Tucker was then given one more chance to begin complying with the state law, but deadline lapsed without a resolution.
City National Bank of West Virginia responded to the attorney general’s inquiries with information that funds belonging to at least two consumers were never deposited in the bank. According to McGraw’s office, due to Foglesong Tucker’s habitual misconduct, the lawsuit seeks to forever ban the funeral home from accepting prepayments from consumers for their funeral purchases and to seize all preneed contract funds from the defendants to prevent future mishandling. The suit also seeks restitution for any consumers who were harmed by the defendants’ conduct as well as civil penalties, punitive damages and interest on all judgments.
Those who suspect that Foglesong Tucker Funeral Home may have mishandling their advance payment are asked to call McGraw’s consumer hotline at 800-368-8808 or 304-558-8986.