More funeral home trouble

WARREN – Ohio’s Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors has suspended the operating license of McClurkin Funeral Home in Girard and the licenses of its directors, making it the second funeral home in Trumbull County to land in trouble with the state in recent months.

Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins said Thursday he has asked Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s Office for a forensic review of McClurkin’s books. A statement from the board accuses McClurkin’s directors, Patrick J. McClurkin and Robert J. McClurkin, of stealing more than $400,000 from ”numerous consumers,” placing the funeral services for these people in ”clear jeopardy.”

McClurkin’s actions are a ”clear violation” of Ohio laws overseeing the placement of money received for preneed funeral contracts, according to the board’s statement. The matter has been referred to Watkins’ office.

The board on Monday suspended the funeral director’s and embalmer’s licenses for the two McClurkins and the license for the funeral home on State Street.

Robert J. McClurkin declined to comment Thursday. Patrick J. McClurkin could not be reached.

Watkins said his office is investigating the accusations against the McClurkin Funeral Home. In an unrelated case, Watkins’ office also is investigating the financial accounts of the Robert P. McDermott Memorial Home in Niles, whose owner has been accused of mishandling $150,000 of pre-paid funeral service contracts.

Assisting the probes are police in Girard and Niles, the embalmers and funeral directors board and the Ohio Department of Insurance.

”My office along with all the other parties have requested the Attorney General’s Office with some forensic help to evaluate the amounts of money that have been announced,” Watkins said.

He would not say where the cases stand.

Vanessa Niekamp, executive director of the Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, said when a consumer pays in advance for funeral services, Ohio law requires the funeral home to place the money in an insurance policy, trust or annuity to guarantee payment when the person dies.

The state board permanently revoked McDermott’s funeral directors license earlier this year, but his embalmers license remains active. Last month, state investigators and Niles police confiscated a laptop from McDermott’s home and more computers, business records and cremated remains of 42 customers from the funeral home on Warren Avenue.

The remains in urns, containers and Ziploc bags, and some of the ashes labeled as unidentified have turned up questions from former McDermott customers who have questioned whether they have the proper remains of their family members and loved ones.

The board informed McDermott of the action centering on mishandling of money from preneed funeral service contracts last month. He filed an administrative appeal in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.

The board of embalmers and funeral directors say violations against McDermott ”involve well over 50 individuals and over $150,000 that Mr. McDermott, in essence, unlawfully converted to his own use,” according to pleadings in the case in which McDermott seeks reinstatement of his licenses.

McDermott had been licensed as a funeral director beginning in 1985 and his funeral home was first licensed in the state in 1998.

Patrick J. McClurkin has been a licensed funeral director and embalmer since 1992 and Robert J. McClurkin, since 1988. The funeral home has been licensed in Ohio since 1996.