Women convicted of embezzlement to be sentenced Monday - WNEM TV 5

Women convicted of embezzlement to be sentenced Monday

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BAY CITY, MI (WNEM) -

A woman who embezzled nearly a half million dollars from a local funeral home will learn her fate.

Erica Kaznowski, 41, will be sentenced Monday for stealing from nearly 89 customers over the past seven years.

Erica is the daughter of former funeral home owner Lynn M. Cederberg.

Kaznowski was the business manager of Stapish-Cederberg Funeral Homes in Bay City and Hampton Township.

A jury convicted 41-year-old Kaznowski on all eight counts - six counts of conversion of prepaid funeral services and single charges of racketeering and conducting a criminal enterprise. The conversion charge is a five-year felony, while the other two charges are each 20-year felonies.

Kaznowski is to be sentenced Monday afternoon around 1:30 p.m.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette's office began an investigation in July 2011, after the funeral homes continued operating despite allowing their licenses to expire.

"Conscientious citizens who purchase funeral services should not have to worry about whether the money will be there when their loved ones need it most," Schuette said.  "We will hold accountable anyone who abuses their position of trust for personal enrichment."

Before signing any pre-need contract, or paying for anything in advance:

  • Know exactly what you are paying for and who will provide the services and merchandise you are purchasing.
  • Know what happens to the money you've prepaid.  Is the money being properly escrowed?
  • Know who you are dealing with, who owns the firm and how long have they been in business?
  • Know what happens to the interest income on money that is prepaid.
  • Know if you are protected if the firm you deal with goes out of business.
  • Know if you can cancel your contract and get a full refund if you change your mind.
  • Know if the arrangements are Portable, Transferrable and Refundable without penalty.
  • And ask yourself, "Are you feeling 'pressured' or hurried to buy something? If so, by whom?"
  • Check if the seller is registered to sell prepaid funerals in Michigan: https://www2.dleg.state.mi.us/colaLicVerify/ or (517) 241-9288.
  • And, check to see if the funeral home is a member of the Michigan Funeral Directors Association, whose members ascribe to a code of ethics: http://www.mfda.org/ or (888) 955-6332.

(Consumer Tips on Pre-Need Funeral Investments, Courtesy of the Michigan Funeral Directors Association)

Schuette encouraged consumers considering the purchase of pre-paid funeral services to take time to evaluate both the seller and the products. 

Consumers can also find helpful advice and a list of questions to consider in Attorney General's Consumer Alert for Pre-Paid Funeral Contracts, available on the Schuette's website at http://1.usa.gov/snhQzB.

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