Maplewood funeral home owners charged with embezzling money from client’s prepaid burial funds
MAPLEWOOD, Minn. — Two former owners of a Maplewood funeral home are accused of misappropriating money paid to them by customers attempting to prepay funeral expenses and using the funds to pay for business expenses.
David John Thorsell, 70, and Edward Peter Vasey, 69, were charged Friday, Feb. 14, with two counts of insurance fraud and a third count of theft by swindle, according to criminal complaints filed in Ramsey County District Court.
The men, who were licensed morticians, previously owned Maple Oaks Funeral Home in Maplewood.
They sold the business in 2017 after a period of financial distress. Some of their real estate was in foreclosure at the time, for example, according to the criminal charges, and the business was subject to a tax lien.
In September of that year, the Minnesota Department of Health received a complaint that Thorsell misappropriated prepaid burial funds.
State law protects such funds by requiring funeral homes to place the money in a trust or use it to buy an insurance policy for the buyer.
Investigators determined Thorsell and Vasey didn’t follow through, according to the criminal charges.
Seven times between 1997 and February of 2017, the owners took customers’ prepaid burial service funds and issued them applications for insurance, but never took the next step of actually purchasing insurance policies for the customers, according to the criminal charges.
In total, the misappropriated funds totaled about $44,000.
Among the people impacted was a woman who prepaid $10,000 to Maple Oaks Funeral Home for her funeral services and died Sept. 21, 2017, the complaint said. Since no insurance policy was obtained with her money, no funds were available to pay for her funeral when she died. Instead, the new owner had to pay for the services, along with the woman’s estate, according to the criminal complaint.
Vasey was interviewed about the matter last May and reportedly blamed Thorsell for any misappropriated funds. Thorsell reportedly acknowledged the misconduct, saying both he and Vasey were responsible, according to the criminal charges. He said they used the money to pay for the struggling funeral home’s operating expenses.
The men lost their license to practice mortuary science following the investigations.
No attorney was listed for Vasey nor Thorsell in court records. They are scheduled to make their next court appearance in March.