Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said Thomas Brandtonies Jr., is supposed to pay back the $123, 273 he stole from consumers. Brandtonies, who operated the Underwood-Brandtonies Funeral Home in Butler, Mo., will be sentenced on six counts of stealing pre-need funeral funds. If he doesn't pay back the money before sentencing, he could get up to seven years behind bars.
Customers gave Brandtonies money, and he assured them it would be used to pay for their funeral services. But instead of placing that money in trust, as required by Missouri law, Brandtonies spent it.
"Thomas Brandtonies, Jr., has admitted defrauding consumers who were trying to make sure their funeral costs would be paid at the time of their death," Koster said. "The Attorney General's Office is committed to seeking justice for vulnerable consumers who have suffered at the hands of those who take advantage of them."
Funeral scams are nothing new. The Federal Trade Commission offers a guide for consumers and these tips for planning a funeral, which rank among one of the most expensive purchases consumers make, averaging $6,000.
The FTC makes the following suggestions for those planning a funeral:
- Shop around in advance. Compare prices from at least two funeral homes. Remember that you can supply your own casket or urn.
- Ask for a price list. The law requires funeral homes to give you written price lists for products and services.
- Resist pressure. Don't buy goods and services you don't really want or need.
- Avoid emotional overspending. It's not necessary to have the fanciest casket or the most elaborate funeral to properly honor a loved one.
- Recognize your rights. Laws regarding funerals and burials vary from state to state. It's a smart move to know which goods or services the law requires you to purchase and which are optional.
- Apply the same smart shopping techniques you use for other major purchases. You can cut costs by limiting the viewing to one day or one hour before the funeral, and by dressing your loved one in a favorite outfit instead of costly burial clothing.
- Plan ahead. It allows you to comparison shop without time constraints, creates an opportunity for family discussion and lifts some of the burden from your family.