Funeral directors accused of ripping off mourning relatives

By Jimmy Ellingham

Those who pre-paid their funerals got nothing. Photo / iStock
Those who pre-paid their funerals got nothing. Photo / iStock

Two former Wellington funeral directors are charged with ripping off customers before their business went under a decade ago.

Darryl, 50, and Melissa Angus, 46, were to have appeared in the Hutt Valley District Court yesterday, each facing 13 charges of theft.

But the pair, who court documents say now live in Ashburton, did not appear.

Each is accused of taking about $75,000 clients' money between 1998 and 2004 when they ran Omega Funeral Services.

It's understood the money related to payments for pre-paid funerals, where people give money to a funeral home which is then put into a trust fund until the service takes place.

On Companies Office records, Darryl Angus is recorded as the sole director and 100 per cent shareholder the Wainuiomata-based business that went into liquidation in 2005.

It owed more than $100,000 to unsecured creditors and liquidators' reports reveal the business suffered "cash flow" difficulties in 2004.

It tried to trade through its problems and its position seemed to improve early in 2005.

"It would appear that at about this time a dispute arose in relation to a funeral that had been undertaken and a large amount of adverse publicity followed," a liquidators' report says.

"This negative publicity in what is a small community resulted in a severe downturn in business. The company no longer had the ability to meet its obligations and the shareholder had little option other than to appoint liquidators.

"In addition to trade creditors, there were a number of clients who had prepaid funerals."

Melissa Angus said today she and Darryl were advised they didn't need to attend court yesterday and that their names were not on the court list.

"We're being guided by our solicitor on what needs to be done."

She said the amount of money reported as being outstanding was not correct.

"There are people claiming money that never paid any money."

Melissa Angus would not say how she or Darryl would plea to the charges.

Hutt South MP Trevor Mallard said 10 years ago he'd received about a dozen complaints about the business.

Over the years he'd had many discussions with police about the case.

Funeral Directors Association of NZ chief executive Katrina Shanks said it was rare for a funeral home to be prosecuted. She could think of only one other similar case.

Only about 5 per cent of funerals in New Zealand were pre-paid, Ms Shanks said.

- NZ Herald

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