July 3, 2006
Mexico, Mo. — The former operator of a Vandalia funeral home was sentenced to eight years in prison today for misusing more than $127,000 paid by clients for pre-need funeral expenses. Donald Holt (1/13/60), who operated Holt Funeral Home, plead guilty to six criminal counts of unlawful merchandising practices in April. Attorney General Jay Nixon filed criminal charges against Holt in August 2005 as part of “Operation Grave Concerns,” a crackdown on fraud in the bereavement industry.
In the plea agreement filed with Judge Keith Sutherland in Audrain County Circuit Court, Holt admitted he failed to place the money in accounts that would be available to pay for the funerals of the purchasers at the time of their deaths but instead used the money for business and personal expenditures.
Because Holt did not pay the restitution to consumers called for in the plea agreement, Judge Sutherland sentenced him to eight years in prison, the sentence recommended by the Attorney General's Office.
The State of Missouri previously revoked Holt's funeral director and embalmer licenses. Holt Funeral Home has since been closed, and its license has not been renewed.
Other action Nixon took as part of “Operation Grave Concerns,” included civil and criminal charges against other funeral home operators in St. Louis and Dent Counties; and civil lawsuits against businesses in Clay, St. Louis and Scott counties that took payment for cemetery markers and headstones and failed to provide them.