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Another complaint against Muskegon cemetery

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WZZM) - A second woman is speaking out against Sunrise Memorial Gardens after a story WZZM 13 News aired earlier this month.  Both women claim the Muskegon cemetery is selling a service, but not delivering on its promise. 

The story has gotten the attention of State Senator Rick Jones (R-Eaton Rapids), who has contacted Michigan's Cemetery Commissioner to look into the accusations.

Previous Coverage: Mom's grave still lacking grave marking

Almost a year after purchasing a granite marker for her parents' grave, Jamie Brewer says it became clear something was wrong.

"There are so many families that have no idea what takes place here," says Brewer.

Brewer says last year, Sunrise Memorial Gardens recommended that she make the nearly $900 purchase.  This spring, though, she realized the marker was never placed.  Then she saw a woman with a similar situation in a story that aired on WZZM 13 news on May 15.

"To find out it was never ordered and to find out they had no intention of putting it down, it just breaks my heart," says Brewer.

WZZM 13 News spoke to the vice president of Sunrise Memorial Gardens, Frank Milles, who admitted to learning about five or six cases similar to Brewer's. 

"We dropped the ball, but that's not the way we operate," says Milles.  "If we had known this was going on, we would have taken action immediately."

State Senator Rick Jones notified Michigan's Cemetery Commissioner after learning of the story.

"If they haven't delivered services on a regular basis, there should be sanctions and there should be fines," says Jones.

Recently several other cemeteries have been investigated for criminal activity.  In 2010, the owner of Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens in Grand Rapids was convicted of embezzling more than $4 million.

According to Michigan's Cemetery Commissioner, there are no state agencies that actively inspect cemeteries for deceptive practices.  Instead, investigations are launched on a complaint basis.  If wrongdoing is found, fines can range up to $5,000 per violation.

"I'm told there are proper safeguards in place," says Sen. Jones.  "If there aren't, I'd be happy to do further legislation."

"The state should know what's going on in these cemeteries," says Brewer.  "That's why things are happening that shouldn't be happening."

Brewer's advice is don't take no for an answer.  After nearly a year, she finally got the granite marker she paid for.

Sunrise Memorial Gardens says now that its aware of the problem, it will provide additional training for employees to help meet customer needs.

If you'd like to report a problem at a cemetery, you can call Michigan's Cemetery Commission toll free at 1 (866) 913-3534.


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