Funeral boss jailed
Tuesday, 19th February, 2019
By Callum Marshall
A former director of a local funeral home was yesterday sentenced to four years’ jail, with a non-parole period of two years, for 32 cases of fraud.
From March 2007 to March 2015, Mark Kelly of ‘Kelly’s Far West Funeral Service’ accepted a total of $130,190 from elderly residents that was intended for their pre-paid funerals.
Under questioning by Crown Prosecutor Cole McPherson, Mr Kelly admitted that the money was put into his own bank account rather than into a business account set up through the company Funeral Plan Management which he signed up to be an agent for.
“On 65 occasions during those eight years you established pre-paid funeral (contracts), yet over that time we have 32 where you didn’t. Why is that the case?” said Mr McPherson.
“Because it was my name, not Funeral Plan Management, on the cheques,” replied Mr Kelly.
“So it went into my bank account. I never had an overdraft and so the funds got used up...for both business and personal (reasons.)”
After a complaint to police in 2014, it was discovered that no money had been paid into the Funeral Plan Management account and they executed a search warrant on Mr Kelly’s Blende Street business in 2015.
Mr McPherson asked why many of the contracts, application forms and money hadn’t been sent to the funeral account within the seven days required.
“Did you understand all the monies paid to you should’ve been paid into the company shortly afterwards?” he said.
“You took out a number of contracts that were never reported to the company.
“When police searched your premises, they saw original contracts there that hadn’t been paid to the company.”
Mr Kelly: “I was paying large accounts out to different people in cash.”.
Mr McPherson: “It was dishonest from the start. You didn’t pay out money to the funeral account like you should’ve.”
Mr McPherson also said that 11 of the individuals involved in the 32 cases had since died.
“What do you say to this, to your family, now that this has all unfolded? Your reputation in this town has blown, hasn’t it?”
“Without a doubt,” replied Mr Kelly.
Judge Paul Lakatos asked why he hadn’t offered any clarity or told the truth to the clients.
Mr Kelly: “I should’ve told them the truth, yeah.”
Before the sentencing, Defence Terrence Healey sought an application for an Intensive Corrections Order for his client and highlighted Mr Kelly’s work in the community and his having no prior convictions.
But Judge Paul Lakatos replied that “nothing less than a full-time custodial sentence...(would) be appropriate.’”
“The defendant has abused his position of trust,” he said. “These were people who, in good faith, handed over their money and thought he was someone they could trust.”
“He used clients’ money, without permission and without telling them what it was for, to (continue funding his business.)
“He gave out money he thought were for good causes or for those who asked for it.
“He seemed not to realise, or want to realise, he deceived those (who had just wanted to manage their funerals better.)
“And I do not accept that he was remorseful.”
After the sentencing, Allein Morrison, whose wife Jeanine was one of the clients, said they had initially trusted Mr Kelly.
“Both my wife and I are on a pension and we realised very quickly that we couldn’t pull $5000 out of a hat,” he said.
“We’re both not perfectly well so if a funeral came up, we’d (thought we should) have something in reserve).
“So money was put into this. He did a family friend’s funeral and we trusted him, and we were let down.
“We went to Potter’s and we wrote a formal letter out and when we handed it to him he virtually threw it out of his office.
“When I rang him up and asked him for the money, he said ‘I’ve never heard of you in my life.’
“The thing is that we’re in a small town. You’re supposed to do the right thing by people.
“He got greedy and if you can’t support your business you shouldn’t be running it at all.
“I’d like to have seen a longer (sentence) but even two years is a long time.”
Mr Kelly can apply for bail on February 16, 2021.