December 13, 2007
Sikeston, Mo. — Attorney General Jay Nixon has brokered an agreement for new ownership of three Sikeston-area cemeteries previously owned and operated by Mike Graham and Associates that protects consumers who paid Graham for various services that were never delivered. The agreement will transfer all assets of Mike Graham and Associates, including the Memorial Park and Garden of Memories Cemeteries in Sikeston and Forest Hill Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Morley, to Birk Enterprises of Jackson.
“This agreement is a win for consumers and a win for the community,” Nixon said. “We worked hard to find a new owner who would address the obligations that the defendants failed to meet, while also taking over these cemetery properties and turning them around. We are pleased to have found such a owner in Birk Enterprises.”
Under the agreement, Birk Enterprises will acquire all of Graham’s assets related to the cemeteries including land, buildings, equipment and trust funds in exchange for agreeing to address the obligations to consumers undertaken but not met by Graham. Those obligations include providing headstones and vaults, conducting burials as promised, and maintaining the properties as expected by consumers who purchased plots.
Nixon obtained a preliminary injunction against Mike Graham and Associates in Scott County Circuit Court in August 2005 as part of Operation Grave Concerns, a crackdown by the Attorney General on fraud in the bereavement industry. Nixon alleged that Graham took payment from consumers for dozens of grave markers that were never delivered, and also sold space in a mausoleum in Rolla that had yet to be constructed. Nixon is working to broker a similar arrangement for the Rolla cemetery, Ozark Memorial Gardens.
Under that injunction, Graham and Associates ceased the sale of cemetery headstones, plots, vaults and other goods and services where prepayment is required.
“It is important to note that, despite today’s agreement to secure new ownership of these properties, our litigation against Graham and Associates is not over,” Nixon said. “We are committed to securing a similar deal for Ozark Memorial Cemetery in Rolla, and to continuing to hold Graham and Associates accountable for their misconduct.”
In the coming weeks and months, as Birk Enterprises takes over ownership and management of the properties, its owners and employees will work to address the problems caused by Graham and Associates.
Nixon’s office continues to pursue a permanent injunction against Graham and Associates as well as the payment of civil penalties, costs and other injunctive relief in the case.