Chicago funeral homes prey on families of homicide victims

Chicago funeral homes are making a literal killing by handling the funeral arrangement for the victims of homicides and pocketing up to $7500 in taxpayer funds.

The funds come from the Illinois Crime Victim’s Compensation fund. But funeral directors often add on charges not covered by the fund, taking advantage of the emotional state of the families and their lack of knowledge about the law.

Fox News:

The state – along with the federal government – provides eligible victims of violent crime with up to $27,000 in financial assistance for out-of-pocket expenses. The families of murder victims get $7,500 for funeral costs.

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost of a funeral for an adult is between $7,000 and $8,300. The Federal Trade Commission puts the figure slightly higher at around $10,000.

The $7,500 from the Crime Victim’s Compensation fund is supposed to go toward staff salary, use of facilities, transportation, a casket as well as other memorialization costs. The price jumps if flowers, clothing or an obituary is added. 

Johnson, a former pastor, says she’s seen families who have been overbilled and underserved.

In one case, she claims a funeral home held a body hostage because the family could not come up with additional funds after being quoted one price but charged a higher amount.

“It happens all the time,” she said.

She added that even though there are laws in place to protect consumers and prevent funeral homes from cold calling families or soliciting outside the medical examiner’s office, few offenders ever face consequences.

In the early 1980's the country was rocked by a book exposing the corruption of the funeral industry. "The American Way of Death" by Jessica Mitford was a runaway best seller and was a big factor in reforms that were passed that protected consumers at the state and federal level.

But having the laws on the books is one thing. Enforcing them is quite another. And the tragic fact is, most families are too emotionally drained after a funeral to file a complaint. 

Funeral directors know this which is why some of them try to take grieving families for everything they can.

Rooting out funeral fraud, by comparison, is not something on the radar of authorities.

“It’s not a high priority,” Johnson said, adding that she’s been privately told there are simply not enough resources at the national, state or local level to go after those trying to bilk the system.

“That’s the excuse of every government agency, isn’t it?” Joshua Solcum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, told Fox News.

Solcum, who describes his non-profit organization as the “Consumer Reports magazine of funerals,” says he too has heard horror stories of funeral homes taking advantage of people.

“(The families) have an ethical right to be angry,” he said. “It’s one of the worst ways to victimize people.”

Some funeral homes have driven up prices so high that the families couldn’t afford burial costs.

Funeral homes have gone so far as to hold bodies hostage until families can come up with the extra cash. 

The fact is, funerals are still too expensive and too many funeral directors fail to inform consumers of the law. Most people in Illinois don't know that they do not need a casket to bury their loved ones, or that caskets are not required for cremation. 

The funeral homes prey upon this ignorance and do little to inform consumers. There is a special place in hell reserved for these people, but in this life, it's very difficult to punish them.

 

  

 

Chicago funeral homes are making a literal killing by handling the funeral arrangement for the victims of homicides and pocketing up to $7500 in taxpayer funds.

The funds come from the Illinois Crime Victim’s Compensation fund. But funeral directors often add on charges not covered by the fund, taking advantage of the emotional state of the families and their lack of knowledge about the law.

Fox News:

The state – along with the federal government – provides eligible victims of violent crime with up to $27,000 in financial assistance for out-of-pocket expenses. The families of murder victims get $7,500 for funeral costs.

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost of a funeral for an adult is between $7,000 and $8,300. The Federal Trade Commission puts the figure slightly higher at around $10,000.

The $7,500 from the Crime Victim’s Compensation fund is supposed to go toward staff salary, use of facilities, transportation, a casket as well as other memorialization costs. The price jumps if flowers, clothing or an obituary is added. 

Johnson, a former pastor, says she’s seen families who have been overbilled and underserved.

In one case, she claims a funeral home held a body hostage because the family could not come up with additional funds after being quoted one price but charged a higher amount.

“It happens all the time,” she said.

She added that even though there are laws in place to protect consumers and prevent funeral homes from cold calling families or soliciting outside the medical examiner’s office, few offenders ever face consequences.

In the early 1980's the country was rocked by a book exposing the corruption of the funeral industry. "The American Way of Death" by Jessica Mitford was a runaway best seller and was a big factor in reforms that were passed that protected consumers at the state and federal level.

But having the laws on the books is one thing. Enforcing them is quite another. And the tragic fact is, most families are too emotionally drained after a funeral to file a complaint. 

Funeral directors know this which is why some of them try to take grieving families for everything they can.

Rooting out funeral fraud, by comparison, is not something on the radar of authorities.

“It’s not a high priority,” Johnson said, adding that she’s been privately told there are simply not enough resources at the national, state or local level to go after those trying to bilk the system.

“That’s the excuse of every government agency, isn’t it?” Joshua Solcum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, told Fox News.

Solcum, who describes his non-profit organization as the “Consumer Reports magazine of funerals,” says he too has heard horror stories of funeral homes taking advantage of people.

“(The families) have an ethical right to be angry,” he said. “It’s one of the worst ways to victimize people.”

Some funeral homes have driven up prices so high that the families couldn’t afford burial costs.

Funeral homes have gone so far as to hold bodies hostage until families can come up with the extra cash. 

The fact is, funerals are still too expensive and too many funeral directors fail to inform consumers of the law. Most people in Illinois don't know that they do not need a casket to bury their loved ones, or that caskets are not required for cremation. 

The funeral homes prey upon this ignorance and do little to inform consumers. There is a special place in hell reserved for these people, but in this life, it's very difficult to punish them.