Former funeral home employee arrested, charged with theft

Published 2:17 pm Monday, June 16, 2014

A former employee of Harrison Funeral Home in Greenville has been arrested and charged with theft of property.

Joel Snell, 60, of Enterprise, faces six counts of theft of property. Authorities say he entered into pre-need funeral contracts with customers knowing the funds were not being set aside in a trust.

Snell worked for Douglas “Dusty” Harrison, 57, who was arrested June 9 and charged with six counts of theft of property.

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Authorities say that Harrison was using money intended for customers’ future funeral needs to run his business.

According to Lt. Justin Lovvorn, the Greenville Police Department received its first complaint on Harrison Funeral Home in January and began looking into the funeral home’s business practices with the assistance of the Secret Service and the Internal Revenue Service.

Lovvorn said the complaints stemmed from Harrison and Snell selling pre-need contracts without a certificate of authority and the mishandling of the funds. According to the Alabama Board of Funeral Services, Harrison Funeral Home sold more than $250,000 in pre-need contracts from 2004 to 2013 without a certificate of authority (COA) granting the establishment the right to enter into such contracts. The funds, according to the board, were also not placed in a trust, but rather were used to help cover the operating expenses of the funeral home.

Pre-need funeral contracts are a means to prepay for funeral services. The money goes into an account and accumulates interest. When a person dies, the money from that account is used for funeral arrangements.

In November of 2013, the board revoked the establishment permit of Harrison Funeral Home in Greenville and Harrison’s service license.

“For years Mr. Harrison sold pre-need contracts with complete disregard for the laws of the State of Alabama,” said Cameron McEwen, legal counsel from the Attorney General’s Office.

On June 21, 2012, the Alabama Department of Insurance issued Harrison Funeral Home a cease and desist order, preventing the funeral home from offering, selling, entering into or collecting payments on pre-need contracts.

During a November hearing held by the Alabama Board of Funeral Services, two witnesses testified that they purchased pre-need contracts from Harrison Funeral Home in October of 2012.

“Mr. Harrison continued to sell the pre-need contracts well after the cease and desist order was issued,” McEwen said.

Federal charges may also be filed against Harrison and Snell once the Secret Service and the IRS complete their investigation.