PEOPLE who have spent thousands of pounds on prepaid funerals have been told the businessman who took their payments has died and their money is not safe.
An accountant in charge of the funeral director’s affairs said the man ‘would be handcuffed if he was still alive’ and his estate was in a ‘sorry mess’.
Stuart Cleveland Price, who died in February and had served a prison sentence for fraud, was behind branches of the Just Cremation business in Poole, Salisbury, Fareham, Gosport and originally Kinson.
The surviving branch, in Kinson, has been taken over by an independent company which is not liable for Mr Price’s debts, the accountant says.
David Ross, of accountancy firm Fair Balance in Throop, Bournemouth, has written to around 200 clients of Mr Price to try to establish what is due to them.
A 76-year-old customer and his 94-year-old wife told the Daily Echo they paid £2,760 each for a funeral plan.
Mr Ross wrote to clients: ‘I must tell you that Stuart did not leave his affairs in order, with a business trading beyond his means and incomplete business records. Unfortunately, he did NOT put your money in a restricted fund (as I know he promised to do).
He said Mr Price’s house and other assets were being sold and most of his employees had lost their jobs. Mr Ross and his wife are ‘working without pay to try to sort out this sad mess’.
A death certificate seen by the Daily Echo says Mr Price died of Covid pneumonia on February 16.
Mr Ross told the Daily Echo he had been Mr Price’s accountant for around 10 months before the businessman’s death and had not seen full data for most of this period.
He said Mr Price, of Ringwood, acted as a sole proprietor rather than a limited company, so his business debts are tied to his personal estate.
“He would be handcuffed if he was still alive,” he said.
“I guess he should have filed for bankruptcy and his house would have been sold anyway.”
Mr Price, who was 57, was jailed for 18 months in 2013 for fraud offenses involving more than £1million. He had falsified invoices for three construction companies in order to recover VAT.
Mr Ross said: ‘My wife and I give a lot of free time to do our best for people who unfortunately won’t get all their money back, but they will get a substantial part of it back.’
Steven Tapper, Director of Poole-based Tapper Funeral Service, said: “From what is described in the letter, what Stuart Price was doing was not only morally wrong, but also contrary to the clear rules that govern prepaid funeral plans. , i.e. the money paid by its customers should have been secured for future use.
“Fortunately, such an illegal practice is extremely rare. Readers whose funeral plans are held by reputable funeral companies should be reassured that Financial Conduct Authority regulation from the end of the month will provide far greater security than ever before. previously.
Nick Douch, chief executive of the Douch Family Funeral Directors of Dorset, said: ‘It is desperately sad to hear that the plans people have purchased may not be honoured.
“For some time we have been calling for regulation of the sector and thankfully it is happening.”
He added: “Those who subscribe to a plan must know where their money is invested and, on request, they must be able to see its performance. If the supplier cannot guarantee this, there is a potential problem.
“Also, if you’re buying from a third party who claims to be endorsed by a funeral director, make sure the funeral director is aware.”
Mr Ross urges any customers who have not been contacted to call him on 01202 513666.