BOSTON, N.Y. (WIVB) – New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has filed a lawsuit against former funeral director Elizabeth Wurtz to recover more than $49,000 in advance payments Schneiderman accused Wurtz of failing to return to clients.
State funeral home regulators accused Wurtz of operating the now defunct Wurtz Funeral Home in the Town of Boston, without a license, and in December, 2011 Wurtz was ordered to shut the business down.
But Assistant Attorney General James Morrissey said Wurtz continued to operate the funeral home until June, 2016, “The Bureau of Funeral Home Directing had ordered her to shut down, she conducted literally dozens and dozens of funerals over the next several years.”
Wurtz apparently skipped town, and is accused of taking the $49,000 with her, moving to the Village of Liverpool near Syracuse, and keeping the advance payments, according to Morrissey.
“Imagine that you have paid money, perhaps on behalf of a loved one, for funeral home services only to discover–and this did happen in one of the cases–on the death of the loved one, that the money was gone.”
After nearly five years of operating without a license, how did authorities finally catch up with Wurtz? Morrissey said the deteriorating condition of the former funeral home on Boston State Road made people suspicious.
“People were driving by the Wurtz Funeral Home and they were noticing that the property was not being tended to–the grass was long, and it just appeared to be in a state of disrepair.”
Morrissey explained, a funeral home director is permitted to take advance payments for funeral arrangements and merchandise to go with it, known as “preneed funeral funds” but they are required to put the money into a preneed funeral account.
“When they take those monies they are required to put them in a trust account, because it remains the money of the consumer, not the funeral home director.”
Morrissey said the Attorney General is suing Elizabeth Wurtz, in State Supreme Court, on behalf of 8 clients who paid preneed funds, and believes one of those customers might have had their advance payment returned, but the other 7 have not.
Anyone who paid advance funds to the Wurtz Funeral Home, and did not receive their money back, or services were not rendered can file a complaint by calling the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline at 716-853-8404, or use the online complaint form at the Attorney General’s website.