Funeral Home Goes Bankrupt, No Money Left For Prepaid Funerals

November 23, 2009
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image AUGUSTA—A bankruptcy trustee says the bankruptcy case for Frank Griffin and Dent’s Undertaking Establishment is coming to a close; there is no money for prepaid funeral arrangements and the historic property is possibly headed towards foreclosure.

A. Stephenson Wallace, the bankruptcy trustee, says he has filed a motion to abandon the historic property on D’Antignac Street. Now, the case will become a no asset case.

Wallace says this decision was made because the liens against the property were determined to be greater than it’s worth. Wallace says the Richmond County tax digest values the property at $284,000. We’re told it’s current value could be found to be less than that figure.

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Wallace lists the liens against the property as:

Almost $200,000 lien by the State of Georgia for unpaid state taxes; $28,000 by the City of Augusta; about $8,000 in unpaid local county taxes; and another $49,000 in various other liens.

That does not include the 20 or more claims filed by victims who said they gave Griffin money for their pre-paid funeral arrangements. Under Georgia law, that money is to be put in a trust immediately. The Georgia State Board of Cemeterians is now investigating Griffin and Dent’s for possibly breaking the law.

Wallace says those victims will not get any money from this case.

There were numerous debts owed to more than 20 creditors. Wallace says they will not be paid either.

He also said the city of Augusta plans to seek a foreclosure against the property, located at 930 D’Antignac Street, a move he tells News 12 he will not object against.

Dent’s Undertaking Establishment’s roots go back in the Augusta community to 1888 founded by the Dent family and recognized as one of the oldest black owned funeral homes in the state of Georgia and the southeast. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Dent’s was ordered to close in May 2009 by Wallace and the bankruptcy court as well as the State Board of Funeral Service.

Frank Griffin, one of the owners of the business, got into financial trouble in 2008 when the Georgia Department of Revenue closed the business briefly in July for owing more than $140,000 in back taxes. Griffin opened the business back up in August after filing for bankruptcy.

In October 2008, the Gowdy family approached News 12 about the funeral home mishandling the remains of 74-year-old Joshua Gowdy. The Richmond County coroner later determined Gowdy’s remains had been “abused”. The question remains if Gowdy was ever embalmed. His family says they found him rotting in his casket at his viewing five days after he died peacefully in his sleep.

They had to have an empty casket funeral for him because of the decomposition of his body. They also paid more than $9,000 for his services, and were never reimbursed.

12 On Your Side went to work for the Gowdy’s and several other families who contacted us after our initial report. New 12 was able to reconnect one family with their loved ones ashes, Terris Mitchell, who had died two years before. We also discovered more than 25 other boxes of unclaimed remains that the coroner’s office later buried.

So far, no criminal charges have been filed against Frank Griffin, who does not have an active license with the State Board of Funeral Service. He has previously denied any wrongdoing in the case.

Source: WRDW.com

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