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Gallagher Takes Action against Restlawn Cemetery

8/11/2003

JACKSONVILLE – The Department of Financial Services has taken administrative action against Restlawn Memorial Cemetery, Inc. in Jacksonville for several violations including failure to properly maintain its grave sites and grounds, resolve long-standing consumer complaints, and deliver paid merchandise, such as tombstones and vaults, to consumers.

"Families expect their loved ones to be treated with respect and dignity and to know that what they paid for will be delivered," said Tom Gallagher, the state's Chief Financial Officer and head of the Department of Financial Services. "Blatant disregard for consumers and the law will not be tolerated."

Other violations cited in the department's administrative complaint include failure to put money in a reserve account to meet the obligations of pre-need contracts and keep a proper accounting of pre-need and at-need contracts that were sold.

The administrative complaint follows on the heels of an exam conducted by the former Department of Banking and Finance in 2002. In October 2002, Restlawn Cemetery signed a consent agreement in which they committed to resolve consumer complaints, care and maintenance problems, and properly reserve funds. In January 2003, regulation of cemeteries and funeral homes that sell pre-need merchandise and services transferred to the Department of Financial Services.

In a follow-up review with Barry Tenzer, a representative of the HIG Corporation which owns Restlawn, department examiners outlined outstanding compliance issues. An examination report was issued in June. Tenzer failed to respond to the report.

Restlawn now has 21 days to respond to the department's administrative complaint and to request a hearing through the Division of Administrative Hearings. "We've put Restlawn Cemetery on notice that we plan to take legal action in the absence of a response," Gallagher said.

The administrative complaint is linked to this release on the department's website at www.fldfs.com. Consumers with questions and concerns can contact the department's Bureau of Cemetery and Funeral Services' helpline at 1-800-323-2627.


Restlawn Cemetery is a for-profit cemetery and has been in operation since 1929.