State board to determine funeral home owners’ fate IMAGE

Becky (front) and Tim King last week pleaded guilty to several charges in criminal court and now will go before the Kentucky Board of Embalmers and Funeral Home Directors, who will determine whether or not they may retain their licenses, which are required in order to operate their business.

-Rachel Keller Collins/Tribune-Courier

  The fate of Filbeck Cann and King Funeral Home under owners Tim and Becky King is now in the hands of the Kentucky Board of Embalmers and Funeral Home Directors. A hearing is set before the board on May 9 to determine whether or not the Kings will retain their licenses, which they must have to operate the business.  

 Last week during a hearing before Graves Circuit Judge Timothy Stark, special judge in the case, Tim and Becky King pleaded guilty to several charges including two counts of fraudulent insurance acts of $500 or less, Class A misdemeanors; two counts of fraudulent insurance acts over $500, Class D felonies; theft by unlawful taking over $500 but under $10,000, a Class D felony; and Criminal possession of forged instrument, a Class D felony.

  The guilty plea came after a year-long investigation by the Kentucky Department of Insurance in which a scheme to defraud customers of pre-paid burial policies surfaced.

  Sonny Meyer, acting chairman of the regulatory board that oversees licensure of funeral home operators, said a five-member group will consider the case of the Kings. He said the board is regulated by Kentucky Revised Statutes, which includes hearings and appeals processes as part of due process.

  Meyer said KRS 316.150 regarding nonissuance, nonrenewal, revocation, suspension and probation of licenses is what the board will consider.

  According to the statute, the board may refuse to issue or renew, may revoke, or suspend and impose probationary conditions on the license of any Kentucky-licensed embalmer or Kentucky-licensed funeral director, and may issue a written reprimand and impose a fine, for a number of reasons including unprofessional, fraudulent, misleading, corrupt, deceptive, or dishonest conduct.

  Meyer said the board has held off on its hearing until the outcome of the criminal proceedings because the board’s hearings are part of due process, which means the parties in question have the right not to incriminate themselves. He said even if the board finds reason to revoke the Kings’ licenses, there’s an appeals process that goes before a judge and during that time they would still be able to practice. And even though the Kings have both pleaded guilty in a court of law in criminal proceedings, they still have the right to appeal per statute, he explained.

  Meyer recalled a case involving another Kentucky funeral home in which the previous owner had his license revoked but was able to continue to practice for four years during the appellate process, until he finally sold the business.

  Meyer, owner of Herman Meyer & Son, Inc. in Louisville, has been a licensed embalmer and licensed funeral director for more than 50 years and said his daughter is the fourth generation of a family that’s been practicing for more than 100 years. He said, “We hate to see this happen. I’ve seen two others but this is the first one I’ve been involved in.”

  During last week’s court proceedings, both Tim and Becky King were sentenced to a five-year diversion, which Commonwealth’s Attorney Mark Blankenship said means both have a five-year to-serve sentence on the shelf should they break the law again within the next five years. In addition, they have to complete all restitution payments before the final sentencing date on Aug. 14, they both have to complete community service and both have to serve some time—but the latter part is unique.

  Because Tim insisted he was “more culpable” in the crimes than Becky, he requested to serve her 30-day jail sentence in addition to his. Blankenship said he left that decision to the judge and it was ultimately allowed.

 Tim will serve 60 days in the Marshall County Detention Center and because he’s serving more jail time, will only serve 100 hours of community service; Becky will serve 30 days home incarceration and 200 hours of community service since she’s not serving jail time.

  “They do have a 13-year-old child and they’re going through a divorce, Tim’s moving to Nashville, there’s a lot of humanity to consider,” Blankenship said. “If they violate the diversion we won’t have to come back and try this case, we’ll have a guilty plea and it will go in as a permanent felony conviction. I know 30 days does not appear to be a lot of time but for people that have never been in trouble, even a month in jail can seem like a very long time.”

  Mark Bryant and Emily Roarke of Bryant Law Center in Paducah represented the couple in the proceedings.

  Bryant said the Kings have paid in excess of $300,000 in restitution and will pay another $62,000 before the Aug. 14 final sentencing hearing. He said Tim’s father provided “several hundred thousand dollars” to the Kings who have also been liquidating marital assets to repay what they owe.

  Bryant said the Kings were filling out the funeral insurance policies and then keeping the money instead of turning it in to Investors Heritage Life Insurance Company of Frankfort. During the process, they were also circumventing the only person at the funeral home who was licensed to sell the policies. He said that employee missed out on approximately $15,000 in commission, which will be repaid as part of the restitution order in this case. Regarding the insurance company, he said, the Kings have paid them around $300,000 for the policies, “so now everyone is made whole.”

  Roarke said, “I think the important thing is there was no one who lost money in this. There was never anyone who died and didn’t get a funeral or whose loved ones were not taken care of. The Kings always took care of everyone and everyone’s money is back where it’s supposed to be. So even though we talk about $300,000 taken, all the money was put back where it was supposed to even before the indictment in this case and also, prior to that, every time someone did pass away, their loved ones were always taken care of and I think that’s a really important point here.”

  Bryant said despite the divorce, the plan is to keep the business open and despite the hit to the business when the case went public, he hopes people will return because “it’s still a good business.”

  “They committed the crimes but that funeral home is still a good business. It has been there upwards of 100 years and they have a big clientele and they’ve still got the doors open,” he said. “I hope people will still use it for their families because the Kings are paying their debt to society and they paid off their restitution. I’m happy it’s over for the Kings and for the people who might have been hurt had restitution not been made.”

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