Pre-paid funeral scam is starting to catch unsuspecting consumers

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) - A multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme is catching up with consumers at the worst time.  It involves a pre-paid funeral scheme in which convicts admitted spending millions meant for funerals

It involves the former company NPS, or National Pre-arranged Services.  A judge sentenced two men at the top, Brent and Doug Cassity, to five and ten years in prison respectively.  Now families who paid them are starting to learn what they`ve lost.

Kim Turner said, 'How many people were sold funerals that think they`re good and they`re not good.'

Kim Turner and Cathy Haag pre-paid for their own funerals, as gifts of love.  Haag said, 'It`s about what my children would go through.'  She cried as she continued, 'I tried to stop that from happening, do you see what I`m saying?'

They own crypts to be buried at Bellerive in Creve Coeur, but they're finding out the money they pre-paid for their funerals, is gone.

Their cousin Theresa Bommarito sold the policies years ago.  Bommarito believed in them so much, she pre-paid for a funeral to be held at Bellerive for her father.  She said, 'So we don`t have to worry about it at the time of death and find out there`s nothing they`re going to honor.  We have a plot of land, but now you`ve got to buy everything again.'

She found out, just as she learned her Dad had days left to live.  She said, 'We`re going to have to come up with $10-15,000.  You do it out of love and then you find out there`s nothing there.'

Brent Cassity was her old boss at an NPS subsidiary company called the Forever Network.  She said she was as shocked as anyone when court records exposed the fraud.  She was comforted when legitimate businesses promised to step up.

Funeral Home director Todd Mahn said, 'All these funeral homes are absorbing that and it`s huge.'  Mahn said the entire funeral home industry agreed to cover consumers who were scammed.  He explained, 'It`s an astronomical number and you just don`t hear about it and as a member of the industry, I would like to thank all of those funeral homes out there that are doing that.'

Mahn served on the Missouri Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors and was an early critic of NPS.  He added, 'I thought this was behind us and everyone was going to be covered, so when you first called me this morning, I was surprised.'

Surprised that Bellerive, which was owned by the Cassitys, is no longer a funeral home.  It's now owned by a new company called Bellerive LLC.  People who paid for pre-paid funerals at Bellerive will have to pay again because the company relinquished its funeral home license.  It`s now operating only as a cemetery.  Bellerive LLC said in a statement 'We are not a successor to, nor are we under any obligation for the preneed contracts entered into with, the entities comprising the failed Forever Network system.'

Theresa, Kim and Cathy may just be the beginning of those finding out they'll start all over again, in paying for funeral expenses.

Bommarito said, 'Hundreds of thousands of families who don`t even know that their funerals aren`t going to be covered.'

Theresa`s Dad, Donald Varney died last night and she told me today they`ll cremate him, as they can`t afford to re-pay for a proper funeral.

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