Undercover probe finds more trouble at DC funeral homes

There's an investigation into nearly a dozen D.C. funeral homes. Undercover shoppers from the city Attorney General's office say they found evidence funeral directors are breaking local and federal laws designed to protect grieving families.

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - Nearly a dozen D.C. funeral homes are under fire. 

Undercover shoppers from the city attorney general's office went into the homes. They say funeral directors may be breaking local and federal laws designed to protect grieving families.

It's just the latest sign of trouble in D.C.'s funeral home business.

Police raided the Austin Royster Funeral Home in Northwest, D.C. last month, removing more than 100 bodies and cremated remains from a storefront the city says was operating without a business license or funeral director's license.

RELATED: DC removes 100 sets of remains from funeral home
   
Family members who sent their loved ones there say Austin Royster literally stank.

“Like ammonia,” said Ashanti Gregory, whose grandmother Barbara Rue was embalmed at the home.

They were “trying to cover up the death smell,” said her sister Quantella Gregory. “There was no make-up on her. It was horrible,” 

Investigators say Austin Royster was the most egregious, but the attorney general is now sending letters to nine of D.C.'s more than 30 funeral homes, suggesting they may be padding prices and taking advantage of grieving families at their most vulnerable time.

“We were irate,” said Attorney General Karl Racine. “I can't tell you the amount of pain and emotional trauma these folks are under.”

Funeral homes are supposed to display a price list so families can easily see how much burying their loved one will cost. But investigators says several homes left out critical items.

They're also required by federal law to let consumers use caskets purchase elsewhere, including on line. But several homes told undercover shoppers that those coffins were shabby.

“That in fact is a consumer protection violation,” said Racine.

One of the nine funeral homes said it's already moving quickly to fix the problems.

Racine’s office has posted advice on line for people who need funeral home services.

Most of those remains seized at the Austin Royster Funeral Home are still being held at the medical examiner's office.

Legally, they can only be released to a licensed funeral home. But the city is trying to figure out a way to get them back to their families without those families having to pay for funeral services twice.

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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