Dawson Funeral Home owner fined, licences revoked

TERRENCE MCEACHERN terrence.mceachern@theguardian.pe.ca @PEIGuardian



SaltWire Network



An investigation into allegations involving the misappropriation of funds for pre-arranged funerals has resulted in the owner of Dawson Funeral Home in Crapaud being fined and having his professional licences revoked. The decision to revoke Lowell Oakes' funeral director and funeral home operator licences was made recently by the Prince Edward Island Funeral Services and Professions Board and published on the organization's website in April. In addition to the licences being revoked, Oakes was fined a total of $15,000 payable to the organization. The matter began with a routine inspection of funeral homes on P.E.I. in August 2021. The board decided to further inquire into Dawson Funeral Home and hired the accounting firm Grant Thornton as an inspector to investigate allegations based on a complaint. Based on the inspector's report, a committee of the board determined that the funeral home accepted $587,889.06 total in pre-arranged funeral funds from 119 individuals. The funeral home also misappropriated $316,790.98 in funds and defrauded a number of individuals out of their purchased pre-arranged funerals. As well, it was determined that the funeral home's record-keeping practices were below professional and industry standards. Oakes provided the board with written responses to the allegations and the findings in the Grant Thornton report. In one response, Oakes indicates that eight individuals had their misappropriated money refunded in full; although the board concluded that those refunds didn't include interest and that the operator failed to put the funds in a trust account as required. Oakes also argues that five of the pre-arranged funeral contracts were used for insurance arrangements and that no funds were received, while in two other instances those funds were deposited in a trust account and two more instances were quotes for headstones. With respect to the two instances where it is argued the funds were put in a trust, the board concludes that occurred prior to Oakes taking ownership of the business. Oakes also says that even though the funds of 16 people were initially misappropriated, those individuals still had their funeral services provided. The board's response to this claim is that there couldn't have been enough in payments to cover those funerals and that a portion of them must have been paid for by other client's misappropriated pre-arranged and ordinary funeral funds. Overall, the board concluded that Oakes breached the P.E.I. Funeral Services and Professions Act and Regulations. As well, the board says that since Oakes didn't account for any of the misappropriated funds, he would have likely continued to pay for pre-arranged funeral services with misappropriated funds if he hadn't been caught. Court documents also show that three civil matters were filed against the funeral home claiming that funds were misappropriated regarding prearranged funerals. Two of those matters are still ongoing. In a third matter, the complainants were awarded $14,689.75 in an April 21 judgment against Oakes and the funeral home. The P.E.I. RCMP also launched an investigation into a complaint of financial irregularities and misappropriated pre-arranged funeral funds at Dawson Funeral Home. On May 5, a spokesperson for the RCMP said that investigation is still ongoing.