The former owner of a funeral home in Millbrook, Ont., faces fraud, breach of trust and forgery charges following a joint investigation between Peterborough police and the Bereavement Authority of Ontario.
Patrick Benson, 44, the former owner and operator of Benson Funeral Home, was arrested on Wednesday following an investigation that began in June probing the misuse of prepaid funeral contracts.
Police say between 2006 and 2015, the King Street funeral home was defrauded of approximately $120,000 after pre-paid funeral contracts with customers were not deposited into a trust account. Benson was owner and operator at the time.
The investigation also revealed that in January and February of this year, prepaid funeral contracts were drawn up with forged customers’ signatures.
“When you have a pre-paid funeral contact, that money is supposed to be held in trust with a financial institution,” said Lauren Gilchrist, communications liasion for the Peterborough Police Service.
“So through the joint investigation it was revealed that the accused had neglected to keep this money in trust with the financial institution.”
In March of this year, the BAO revoked Benson’s licence, prohibiting him from selling or offering to sell any funeral, cremation or burial services.
According to the BAO, Fallis & Shields Funeral Home Inc., purchased the assets of the former Benson Funeral Home in December 2015 but have no affiliation with Benson.
Bill Shields, owner of the Fallis & Shields, tells CHEX News that the reputation of his business has taken a hit with the allegations.
“There’s been a lot of speculation, a lot of rumours, a lot of misinformation,” said Shields.
“We’re just grateful that it is out in the public and the truth is now in the hands of the courts.”
Benson, of Otonabee Drive in Peterbrough, is charged with fraud over $5,000, criminal breach of trust and seven counts of use, deals, acts on forged documents.
He is scheduled to appear again in court on Oct. 4.