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Licenses revoked for Detroit funeral home manager after hearing demonstrated gross misconduct

The Board of Examiners in Mortuary Science has revoked the mortuary science licenses of the shuttered Compassion Funeral Home and Cremation Service, previously operating at 21551 Fenkell in Detroit, and its manager, John N. Olszewski, Jr. The Board also ordered the funeral establishment to pay a $110,000 administrative fine and Olszewski to pay a $170,000 administrative fine.

LARA opened an investigation after receiving a complaint from a family who had not received the cremated remains of a deceased relative. An additional complaint was lodged by a crematory facility, Tri-County Cremation Services, L.L.C., after it received several bounced checks from Compassion Funeral Home and Cremation Service. Receipt of these complaints prompted LARA’s Corporations, Securities & Commercial Licensing Bureau to inspect the establishment in September and October 2019.

“Licensed mortuary scientists are required to obtain authorization for final disposition from the next-of-kin and a burial transit permit before transporting dead human bodies to cemeteries or crematories and must take care in completing and electronically signing death certificates,” said CSCL Director Linda Clegg. “Otherwise, death certificates are rendered unreliable, and it makes it impossible to obtain the approval of a county medical examiner to cremate a body in a timely manner. It is imperative that a fully licensed mortuary scientist ensures that this occurs and is physically present at the funeral establishment to supervise the individual resident trainee he or she is sponsoring at all times.”

Following a formal hearing in June 2022, an administrative law judge, in part, made the following findings regarding Compassion Funeral Home and Cremation Service and Olszewski:

  • Although Olszewski was the establishment’s designated manager, he was rarely present at the facility and allowed an unsupervised individual who held an expired mortuary science resident trainee license, Gerald John Ruffin, Jr., to manage the funeral establishment’s day-to-day activities.
  • Olszewski and the funeral establishment aided and abetted another unlicensed establishment and individual to oversee the funeral services and final disposition of a dead human body.
  • Olszewski permitted an agent of the funeral establishment to transport five dead human bodies to a crematory, Tri-County Cremation Services, L.L.C., without burial transit permits and without first obtaining authorization from the next of kin of the deceased to oversee their final dispositions, resulting in months-long delays in achieving final disposition.
  • Olszewski permitted for cremation services to be paid with $7,000 in bounced checks, constituting fraud, deceit, or dishonesty in the practice of mortuary science.
  • Olszewski unknowingly signed a death certificate indicating that a human body was buried at a cemetery in Detroit when that body was awaiting cremation at a crematory facility. The funeral establishment transported the body to Tri-County Cremation Services, L.L.C. in 2019, and the same body remained there until the spring of 2021 when LARA discovered it during an investigation of the crematory facility. The body was still awaiting cremation due to a lack of authorization for final disposition.
  • Olszewski permitted the establishment’s embalming room to be used as a storage area and to fall into such a state of disarray, filth, and disrepair that it was not fully equipped to embalm bodies. The embalming machines were not operational at all during a second inspection of the facility and there was a strong, foul odor in the air.
  • Olszewski’s and the funeral establishment’s conduct demonstrated incompetence and gross negligence in the practice of mortuary science.

The decision by the Board of Examiners in Mortuary Science to revoke these licenses was based on the findings of fact and conclusions of law by the administrative law judge. The final order was sent by mail and email on October 11, 2022 to Mr. Olszewski and Compassion Funeral Home.

Funeral establishments are each required to designate a fully licensed mortuary scientist as its manager for purposes of ensuring the establishment’s compliance with the mortuary science laws. That individual must be employed on a full-time basis and available at all times for funeral-related purposes.

Resident trainees are mortuary scientists in training who may be attending college while also working for a licensed funeral establishment. The Occupational Code requires that they work under the supervision and sponsorship of a fully licensed mortuary scientist who is actively connected with the funeral establishment where they both work at all times.

LARA is a regulatory agency with no criminal enforcement powers. When LARA determines that one of its regulatory actions could result in criminal charges under a law it administers, those cases are referred to either the Michigan Department of Attorney General or local law enforcement.

Members of the public who have questions or concerns regarding the operation of Michigan’s funeral homes should contact LARA at 517-241-7000, or by email at funeralhomes@michigan.gov. More information on LARA’s regulation of Michigan funeral homes can be found at www.mi.gov/mortuaryscience.