The Alabama Department of Insurance has assumed operation of 15 funeral homes and cemeteries operated by Mike Graham and Associates, Commissioner Walter A. Bell announced Monday.
The department alleges the funeral homes and cemeteries are approximately $2 million behind in payments to a trust to hold consumers' funds until the funeral or cemetery services are needed. About 2,000 consumer contracts are affected.
The department is acting under the authority of the Pre-Need Funeral and Cemetery Act of 2002, which sets up the department as the regulatory authority of pre-sales of funeral and cemetery services. On Friday, the Department was granted a temporary restraining order by a Jefferson County circuit court to allow it to begin the process of taking possession of the funeral homes and cemeteries pending a hearing later this month.
The funeral homes and cemeteries will continue to operate, but will not be allowed to sell any pre-need services at this time. Additionally, financial matters at the locations must be cleared through the Department's receiver, Denise Azar.
"This is by far the largest receivership action the Department has undertaken in its enforcement of Pre-Need Funeral and Cemetery Act," Commissioner Bell said. "The pre-need contract between provider and consumer is sacred. Alabama families are placing in the provider's care money to pay for the funeral or for the safe keeping of the remains of a loved one. Violations of those contracts will not be tolerated.
"The law provides for proper ways to handle money from consumers' all of which will allow a funeral home or cemetery the ability to meet its obligations to Alabama families."
The funeral homes and cemeteries, and their locations, are:
- Brighton Cemetery, 4159 Main Street, Brighton
- Forest Grove Memory Gardens & Funeral Home, 1425 5th Avenue, Pleasant Grove
- Oakland Cemetery, 1230 Warrior Road, Birmingham
- Sunrise Memory Gardens, 5730 U.S. Hwy. 78 East, Pinson
- Cullman Memorial Gardens, 1516 Bolte Road, Cullman
- Williams-McCracken Funeral Home, 461 U.S. Hwy. 278 East, Cullman
- Brookwood Cemetery, 2059 Guntersville Road, Arab
- Marshall Memorial Funeral Home, 3368 Ala. Hwy. Ala. 205 North, Albertville
- Marshall Memorial Gardens, 3364 Ala. Hwy. 205 North, Albertville
- Crestview Cemetery, 3820 Wyeth Drive, Albertville
- Wilson Funeral Home, 3801 Gault Avenue North, Fort Payne
- Blount Memory Gardens, 2215 Ala. Hwy. 32, Oneonta
- Resthaven Memorial Park and Funeral Home, 6415 Veterans Parkway, Lanett
- Cedar Oak Cemetery, 1401 Mimosa Park Road, Tuscaloosa
- Pineland Memorial Park, U.S. Highway 82, Centreville
Receivership means that all of the assets of an entity have been placed under the stewardship of the department's chief receiver, whose official actions are supervised by the court. The receiver seeks to marshal all assets and attempts to the rehabilitate the company if possible and liquidate if necessary.
Consumers with pre-need policies should be aware of the following: Pursuant to subpoenas issued by the department of Insurance, and through audits performed by the department, the receiver is in possession of copies of pre-need contracts issued by each funeral home and cemetery location. The receiver will communicate with pre-need contract holders in the near future, and consumers may also receive updates by visiting the department's website, <a href="http://www.aldoi.gov/">http://www.aldoi.gov/</a>.
Prior to the action against Graham and Associates, the department had three funeral homes and six cemeteries in receivership.
"We will be asking the Legislature to tighten some restrictions under the law to further protect Alabama consumers," Commissioner Bell said. "We have been aggressive in pre-need enforcement, but I assure you we will be pushing even harder."