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Former Tampa Funeral Home Owners Arrested for Fraud

4/21/2016

TAMPA, Fla. – The Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) today announced the recent arrest of two former funeral home owners from the Tampa area, Julio Gonzalez-Roel and Lucia Gonzalez-Roel. This year-long investigation which included the combined efforts of DFS’s Division of Agents and Agency Services and the Division of Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services revealed the couple allegedly concocted a scheme by which they sold pre-need funeral contracts to consumers and then stole the money they collected on those contracts rather than placing the funds into a pre-need trust account as Florida law mandates. A pre-need funeral contract is an arrangement in which a funeral provider accepts an advance payment in exchange for providing future funeral services to the consumer.
 
Julio and Lucia Gonzalez-Roel are the previous owners of JGR Funeral Services, Inc., a funeral home located at 6718 North Armenia Avenue in Tampa. Stemming from a previous arrest on similar charges, Julio Gonzalez-Roel’s funeral director and embalmer license was revoked in August 2009. Lucia Gonzalez-Roel amended JGR’s records to list herself as the president, secretary and treasurer of JGR Funeral Services in an effort to keep herself and her husband involved in the day-to-day operations of the business. Florida law requires funeral homes to obtain a separate license to sell pre-need funeral contracts. JGR was at one time licensed to sell pre-need contracts but in 2009 that license expired and their application to renew the license was denied, meaning the company was selling pre-need contracts without the required licensure.
 
The Gonzalez-Roels sold JGR Funeral Services in 2014, and Julio was kept on staff by the new owners. Shortly after, the business closed as a result of matters unrelated to this investigation. After it closed, the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Funerals, Cemeteries, and Consumer Services began receiving complaints from consumers who alleged that their pre-need contracts had not been handled appropriately. 
 
DIF investigators determined that the Gonzalez-Roels stole funds associated with more than 50 pre-need contracts. In total, at least $181,000 was stolen. To date, Florida’s Consumer Protection Trust Fund has returned $117,000 of the stolen funds to Florida consumers. The Florida Consumer Protection Trust Fund is a fund available to consumers who have purchased a pre-need contract and the funeral provider involved is unable to honor the contractual agreement.
 
Julio and Lucia Gonzalez-Roel were both arrested on April 18, 2016, and booked into the Hillsborough County Jail. Their charges include: RICO (Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization), 18 combined counts of grand theft and 24 additional counts based upon violations of the Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services Practice Act.
 
This case will be prosecuted by the Office of Hillsborough County Assistant State Attorney Mike Lennon and if convicted, both Julio and Lucia Gonzalez-Roel face up to 30 years in prison.
 
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Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official, oversees the Department of Financial Services. CFO Atwater’s priorities include fighting financial fraud, abuse and waste in government, reducing government spending and regulatory burdens that chase away businesses, and providing transparency and accountability in spending. Follow the activities of the Department on Facebook (FLDFS) and Twitter (@FLDFS).