September 18, 2006
Potosi, Mo. — The former operator of funeral homes in Salem and Bunker was sentenced to eight years in prison today for misusing $46,455 paid by clients for pre-need funeral expenses. Jane Spencer Turner (DOB- 11/18/55), who operated Spencer Funeral Homes, pleaded guilty to seven criminal counts of unlawful merchandising practices in July. Attorney General Jay Nixon filed criminal charges against Turner in August 2005 as part of “Operation Grave Concerns,” a crackdown on fraud in the bereavement industry.
In the plea agreement filed with Judge Kenneth W. Pratte in Washington County Circuit Court, Turner admitted to defrauding seven consumers who purchased pre-need funeral plans from her. Turner represented to these consumers that she would place their pre-need funeral funds in a trust account to be available to pay for their funeral expenses at their time of death. Missouri law requires that 80 percent of such funds be placed in trust. Turner admitted that she failed to place the funeral funds in trust, but instead used the money for other purposes.
Judge Pratte sentenced Turner to four years in prison on each count, with the first two counts to run consecutively, the sentence recommended by the Attorney General's Office.
The State of Missouri previously revoked Turner's funeral director and embalmer licenses. Spencer Funeral Homes has since been closed, and its license has not been renewed.
Nixon also filed a civil lawsuit against Turner in August 2005 for entering into pre-need funeral contracts and failing to place the money paid by consumers into trust accounts as required by law. Nixon further alleged that Turner sold pre-need contracts as an agent for Missouri Funeral Trust (MFT) and as an agent for National Prearranged Services (NPS), and failed to forward consumers' money to these sellers for deposit into trust accounts. The civil lawsuit against Turner is still pending in Dent County.
On July 3, another defendant targeted by Nixon in the initiative, former Vandalia funeral home director Donald Holt, was sentenced to eight years in prison for similarly misusing pre-need funds.