State orders closure of Battle Creek funeral home

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) — The state has ordered a Battle Creek funeral home to close after more than 80 years in business following allegations of irregularities in prepaid contracts.

The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs is suspending the licenses of the Royal Funeral Home and its owner Richard Royal, starting Tuesday, the Battle Creek Enquirer reported.

A state audit found several violations of the Prepaid Funeral and Cemetery Sales Act and the Occupational Code. The state alleges that the funeral home failed to deposit about $269,200 from 92 prepaid funeral contracts with an authorized escrow agent.

State officials also accuse the business of failing to maintain copies of prepaid funeral contracts and of committing fraud, deceit or dishonesty in the practice of mortuary science.

“Michigan residents trust funeral home directors, owners, and their establishments to follow the law especially when dealing with the death of a loved one,” Orlene Hawks, the licensing department’s director, said in a statement. “We will continue to aggressively hold every funeral home in Michigan to the highest standards of public health and safety when providing final arrangements.”

Royal declined to comment because the state investigation is ongoing.

State officials have given Royal 60 days to assign existing prepaid contracts to someone registered under the Prepaid Act or to cancel the contracts and refund the money.

According to the state, using prepaid funds for personal use or failing to place the money in an escrow account can lead to felony charges with consequences of up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Other violations of the Prepaid Act can carry misdemeanor charges and maximum penalties of a year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.

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