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Monday, Apr 14 2014 05:11 PM

License of Delano-area funeral home revoked for overcharging

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BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

The licenses of a Delano-area funeral home and its funeral director were revoked after an investigation determined employees engaged in "fraud, misrepresentation and misleading conduct" in overcharging for funeral expenses.

That brings to at least three the number of local funeral homes that have been under investigation in the past year.

The revocation of Lane Family Funeral Home's funeral establishment license and the funeral director license of Padraic C. Lane took effect Dec. 16, according to the state Cemetery and Funeral Bureau, part of the Department of Consumer Affairs. Lane had run the operation since 2003.

He could not be reached for comment Monday.

The bureau made its decision after concluding the funeral home overcharged on several expenses in January 2011 regarding the funeral of a decedent identified only as "M.C." Relatives of M.C. paid $695 for a cloth-covered casket, $650 in transportation from the funeral home to the burial site in Lancaster and $1,000 in cemetery costs, according to a complaint filed by the state Attorney General's office.

The funeral home overcharged $200 for the casket, $504 for transportation and $431.74 for cemetery costs. Bureau reports say Padraic Lane admitted in April 2012 to the overcharges, saying he made them at the urging of a part-time funeral manager who later left the funeral home on "bad terms" on July 5, 2011.

The reports say investigators didn't find Lane's explanations credible.

In addition, Glenwood Gardens Skilled Care Center, which was M.C.'s last residence, sent a $763.22 check to Lane Family Funeral Home to be applied toward the cost of funeral services, according to the complaint. The check was deposited into the funeral home's bank account, but it never informed M.C.'s relatives of the payment and didn't apply it to the expenses.

"The record here establishes that the public is at risk if the bureau continues to license (Lane Family Funeral Home and Padraic Lane)," the bureau's decision states.

Two other Kern County funeral homes have been under investigation in the past year.

The Kern County coroner's office removed nine bodies from Beloved Care Funeral Home in early January that it said "were not being adequately housed." Owner James O. Gamble Jr. has been charged with three counts of failing to bury bodies within a reasonable time.

A pretrial hearing is scheduled for April 25.

And Sierra Valley Mortuary, in Lake Isabella, has been accused of failing to provide prepaid burial services. A complaint filed by the state Attorney General's office asks that the license of Sierra Valley Mortuary, as well as the license of funeral director Brian Coates, be suspended or revoked for fraud and gross negligence.

Barry Goldner, of Bakersfield law firm Klein DeNatale Goldner, is representing Sierra Valley and said the dispute stems from a misunderstanding of the pre-need arrangements and the complications of Medi-Cal eligibility requirements.

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