Troy business receives cease and desist from AG’s Office

Cremation service allegedly operating without licenses

By: Jonathan Shead | Troy Times | Published July 17, 2021

 The website for Comfort Cremation Services has been taken down. Google shows the company has been “permanently closed.”

The website for Comfort Cremation Services has been taken down. Google shows the company has been “permanently closed.”

Image provided by Jonathan Shead

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TROY — The Michigan office of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, or LARA, in conjunction with Attorney General Dana Nessel’s Office, sent a cease-and-desist order June 16 to Comfort Cremation Services, 101 W. Big Beaver Road, Suite 1400, and its affiliates, O’Neil Swanson and George Drosis, after finding them allegedly operating their business without the proper mortuary science licenses.

“(Swanson and Drosis) are further ordered to stop violating the Occupational Code by aiding and abetting Comfort Cremation Services LLC in the unlicensed practice of mortuary science,” the notice reads.

LARA issued a separate cease-and-desist order June 4 to Ypsilanti-based Tri-County Cremation Services and its members O’Neil and Dianne Swanson, after a search of the business found decomposing human bodies on the premises. The Ingham County Circuit Court ordered Tri-County Cremation Services and its members to comply with the cease-and-desist order June 11.

The licensing and regulatory agency announced June 24 that all bodies found at Tri-County Cremation Services have been cremated or removed from the property.

LARA received a tip April 7 from the Michigan Funeral Directors Association that the company was “removing dead human bodies and transporting them to Tri-County Cremation Services, LLC for cremation services,” the notice states.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have any comment due to the ongoing litigation of the issue. I don’t have anything I can share at this point,” Michigan Funeral Directors Association spokesperson Matt Resch said.

Both parties, Comfort Cremation Services and Tri-County Cremation Services, and its members have scheduled an upcoming hearing date and plan to meet with LARA to discuss the order before then, LARA Communications Director Suzanne Thelen said in an email. The parties could reach an agreement outside of or before the formal hearing.

According to the cease-and-desist notice, Drosis organized Comfort Cremation Services on April 10, 2020, as an LLC under LARA’s Corporations Division. Drosis was the sole employee at the time. On June 3, Comfort Cremation Services filed for a certificate of assured name to indicate they would transact business as “Tricounty Cremations.”

Drosis also submitted a stock purchase agreement document to LARA June 3 as part of Tri-County Cremation Services’ 2020 application to approve cemetery change of control under the Cemetery Regulation Act. That June 15 agreement, which named Swanson as a member of Comfort Cremation Services, detailed the company’s agreement to “purchase the real property and crematory business associated with Tri-County Cremation Services, LLC by land contract between Comfort and Burrell Tri-County Vaults, Inc.,” the notice states.

Neither Drosis nor Swanson had been licensed as mortuary science practitioners. Swanson’s license was revoked by the Board of Examiners in Mortuary Science April 11, 2018. They had not applied for or received a mortuary science establishment license or individual mortuary science licenses up to the date of the order, according to officials.

During LARA’s inspection of Tri-County Cremation Services, 1106 E. Michigan Ave. in Ypsilanti, May 26-June 7, investigators found 29 cardboard cremation containers with uncremated human body remains that were labeled as being received from Comfort Cremation Services. Further documentation indicated that Tri-County Cremation Services had 85 dead bodies waiting to be cremated on-site that originated from Comfort Cremation Services, 57 of which didn’t have a cremation date associated with them.

Klint Kesto, of Kesto Law, the company’s legal counsel, said the company was surprised to receive the cease-and-desist order.

“I think we were surprised, yeah. We could have had some better communication with the department for an understanding, but be that as it may, it is what it is,” he said.

“They’re a marketing management company that coordinates services. At this time, we’re still reviewing what LARA is trying to indicate, but Comfort Cremation Services was doing marketing management services with other funeral homes and whatnot. … We have to, obviously, go through what they’re alleging, but that’s what Comfort Cremations was doing.”

Comfort Cremations, and its affiliates, are complying with the order, and are working with the department to ensure they’re in compliance with its rules, if they weren’t already, Kesto said. The company’s website has been taken offline, and Google shows the company is “permanently closed.”

Practicing mortuary science without the proper licenses can be punishable as a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $500 or up to 90 days in prison, or both, for a first offense. Fines double to $1,000 for second and subsequent offenses.

Comfort Cremation Services and its members could face possible censure, fines, a requirement that restitution be made, and denial to receive any future licenses for their actions. Tri-County Cremation Services could face a $5,000 fine for each violation of the Cemetery Regulation Act and denial to receive any future licenses.

“The current Cease and Desist Order, if it becomes a final order of the Commissioner, would impose a $20,000 administrative fine against the respondents,” Thelen said.

Anyone who believes they were a victim in connection with the alleged violations performed by Comfort Cremation Services, Tri-County Cremation Services or its members can call (517) 241-7000 or email CSCLonline@michigan.gov to submit a complaint.

For more information, visit michigan.gov/lara.

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