August 13, 2020
LANSING – The former owner of a Manistee funeral home was ordered by the court Wednesday to pay back $213,000 after he used the money – which was given to him by clients for their prepaid funeral contracts – to support his business, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced today.
Denis Robert Johnson, 70, was sentenced Wednesday in 19th Circuit Court in Manistee County before Judge David A. Thompson. Johnson pleaded guilty to one count of funeral contracts – conversion, a five-year felony.
As part of a plea deal, Johnson must pay $213,567.53 in restitution to the people he took money from, even those whose claims could not be charged due to statute of limitations. He sold the Manistee funeral home property he owned to fully finance the restitution, with that money to be distributed to victims. Johnson was also sentenced to serve up to 60 days in county jail and probation after his release.
“When people lay their hard-earned money down on the table and sign a contract, they expect that agreement to be upheld and for their money to be handled appropriately – not used for someone else’s personal reasons,” Nessel said. “I’m grateful for the coordination between my office and the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs in bringing this matter to a close and providing all of the victims in this case with proper restitution.”
A complaint from one of Johnson’s clients led to an audit of the funeral home’s finances by the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). The audit revealed that 75 prepaid contracts were not properly escrowed. LARA revoked Johnson’s license as a result of the details discovered through the audit and referred the case to the Attorney General’s office.
Johnson was charged in September with four felony counts of failing to escrow prepaid funeral contract funds. A single count of the felony charge is punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a $5,000.
Johnson was the owner and licensed funeral director at Johnson Funeral Home in Manistee, where he was also licensed to sell prepaid funeral contracts.