Harrison Funeral Home's Lawyer Calls Feds Unfair

What the Harrison Funeral Home did when an undercover agent posed as a potential client was just a technical violation—handing out a handwritten instead of typewritten price list, said lawyer Timothy C. Parlatore. 

Then, not only did the office of the U.S. Attorney's for the Southern District of New York try to hit the small business with $80,000 in fines; but, after a settlement was reached, the feds distributed an unfair and deceptive press release, Parlatore said.

In the government's press release Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced a lawsuit against Harrison Funeral Home Inc., and its president, John Balsamo, for engaging in unfair and deceptive acts or practices in connection with the provision of funeral services, had been settled. 

In the release, the U.S. Attorney's Office said the defendants had agreed to remedy "numerous" unfair trade practices and pay a $32,000 penalty.

The settlement, in the form of a consent decree, was based on a Complaint filed in May 2012 in White Plains federal court. It was approved by U.S. District Judge Nelson Stephen Román, the U.S. District Attorney's office said.

What really happened, Parlatore said, was that undercover agents came to the funeral home one day posing as a grieving family. Balsamo's assistant was out at the time, and he was unable to print out a copy of the price list so he wrote it up by hand.

The feds cited him for three violations: not having a printed price list for facilities and services, not having a printed price list for caskets, and not having a printed price list for burial chambers.

A different agent returned several months later, but left as soon as Balsamo handed him a printed price list, Parlatore said. 

The ironic thing is that casket prices are prominently displayed in the casket room—and the Harrison Funeral Home doesn't carry burial chambers. 

The feds initially levied $80,000 in fines, which was reduced to $32,000.

"In the settlement he does not at all admit to engaging in unfair or deceptive practices," Parlatone said. "He has never ever had a complaint from any actual customer. There have never been any allegations of fraud."

This is one of those government practices that are just wrong, Parlatone said: trying to trick funeral directors into technical violations and then issuing misleading press releases.

"I felt this was so wrong," he said. 


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