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Posted: 4:37 p.m. Thursday, July 4, 2013
By Kathryn Burcham
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. —
A Rockingham funeral home has been shut down after multiple client complaints involving allegations of fraud, forgery and missing remains. Eyewitness News obtained state documents from the North Carolina Board of Funeral Service that show officials first ordered Russell-Marks Funeral Home to shut down in April. One local man said the owner, Larry Russell, held a service for his mother Virginia Jones in May and agreed to cremate her remains. "My brother gave him the insurance policy number and the insurance company name, and we thought it was done with," said Mike Jones. Jones said weeks went by and he never received his mother's ashes. Jones said he continued to call Russell, but claimed he never heard back. When Jones finally confronted Russell in June, he learned his mother's embalmed body had never been sent for cremation, and in fact had been inside the funeral home for more than five weeks. "All I wanted was closure, I just wanted my mom back so I could bury her," Jones said. State officials said they sent another notice to Russell in June about his suspended license, but said more consumers have since come forward with complaints. "Some questions about fraudulent activity in regard to documentation," said NCBFS Director Peter Burke. In one complaint, a family member claimed their father had prepaid for his funeral service, but discovered months later there was no record of his payment. Others complained about missing or incorrect death certificates, according to state records. When Eyewitness News went to Russell-Marks Funeral Home Thursday, Russell appeared to be moving out. Russell told Channel 9 he had no comment, and denied any knowledge of any complaints about fraud when asked if he was planning to reimburse any of his clients. The NCBFS will hear the case on Aug. 15.
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