State Charges Former Local Funeral Director with Forgery on Death Certificates

August 28, 2009
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image A former City Council member is facing 22 felony counts of forging doctors’ signatures on death and cremation certificates. Ambrose W. Bailey, 51, was in Fredericksburg Circuit Court yesterday with his attorney, Mark Gardner. He will be formally arraigned July 24, at which time a trial date will be set.Bailey was arrested Tuesday on 22 counts of forging a public document. He went to a magistrate’s office to have the warrants served and was immediately released, police said.

The state attorney general’s office filed the charges; King George Commonwealth’s Attorney Matt Britton will serve as special prosecutor.

Each charge carries a potential penalty of two to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

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The charges stem from 2005 and 2006, when Bailey was a funeral director for his family’s business, Bailey Funeral Service.

Bailey lost his funeral license in October 2007 after the Virginia Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers determined he had forged 18 death certificates and five cremation certificates between October 2005 and June 2006.

Bailey at the time admitted to the forgeries, had his mortician’s license suspended and paid a fine. He took the blame for being “too hasty to get paperwork processed” and suggested that health problems also played a role.

Bailey applied to have his license restored but the state board turned him down last December, saying he “has not demonstrated satisfactory evidence” that he should resume his practice.

Gardner said he isn’t sure why criminal charges have now been filed, but he pointed out that the allegations are the same ones that were handled administratively a couple of years ago.

City police said previously that no criminal cases were affected by the forgeries.

Dr. Frederic A. Phillips, the local medical examiner, said his name was forged about a half dozen times. Phillips said he was alerted to the situation several years ago when someone at Mercer Vault Co. saw the signatures and knew it wasn’t Phillips’ writing.

A medical examiner must sign off on all cremations. Death certificates can be signed by any doctor.

Other than saving the $50 fee he gets for each signature, Phillips said he knows of no benefit for someone to have forged his signature.

Phillips said he promptly responds to requests for signatures and usually gets it done the same day.

“It’s just stupid,” Phillips said. “That’s the only word to describe this.”

Phillips said he did not initiate the criminal investigation against Bailey, pointing out that he’s been friends with Bailey’s father, Weldon Bailey, for 43 years.

Ambrose Bailey joined City Council in 1993, completing his father’s unexpired term. He was then elected to four-year terms in 1994 and 1998.

He also served on the state Transportation Board from 2002 until December 2005, when he stepped down for health reasons.

Article By: Keith Epps

Email: kepps@freelancestar.com

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