New details unearthed in cemetery investigation

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The search for answers at George Washington Memorial Gardens is heating up. It’s been nearly two weeks since CBS42 first started the investigation, and we’ve unearthed some new information. Tuesday CBS42 learned that the Alabama Department of Insurance had started getting phone calls and emails from concerned customers. Now they’re asking those customers to send them what they have.

According to Governmental Relations Manager, Mark Fowler, they don’t have the documentation in hand, but they are interested in looking at it.

With no word from the cemetery’s management and no working phone number, people worried about their loved ones graves and their prepaid burial plots are turning to the state department of insurance for answers and hoping for action. On background, ALDOI has authority where it comes to preneed service agreements. Vendors are required to be certified through them and there are requirements meant to protect investments in the event that a business runs into problems.

“The department has received calls and emails from consumers and with regard to the cemetery there in Birmingham. And certainly if the consumer has purchased pre-need services which the department does regulate from the cemetery and wishes to provide copies of documentation the department will be more than happy to look into it from there.”But so far we don’t have anything in hand yet,” said Mark Fowler, Governmental Relations Manager, Alabama Department of Insurance.

But just because a person prepays at a cemetery doesn’t necessarily mean they have a preneed service contract, according to Fowler.

Prepaid burial plots by themselves may be viewed differently than prepaid service and merchandise sales, according to the Alabama Dept of Insurance.

“They are two different things. The department regulates preneed services and again to date we’ve not seen any documentation regarding pre-need services involved here, but of course any consumer who wishes to contact the department is welcome to do that. Certainly again if the consumer has bought preneed services there and wishes to provide that information to the department, the department can certainly look into it from there, but it’s you know it’s a step, by step process and we just need to start with that,” said Fowler.

George Washington Carver Memorial Gardens does not have a certificate to sell preneed services and it has never been in receivership with the department. One whole branch of the Alabama Department of Insurance is dedicated to preneed contracts. If you have concerns and you believe you may have a preneed sales agreement or contract that you are worried about you can contact them- just go to ALDOI.gov and click on preneed.

For a link to one of the forms needed to request assistance, click here. The Alabama Department of Insurance’s Preneed Division’s mailing information can be found within the form.

Mailing address and other relevant information appear on forms like these, which are available through the preneed section of the ALDOI website – which can be found here.

Copyright 2013 WIAT-TV CBS 42

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