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December 2013

Dear Members,

Sentences Handed Down in NPS Ponzi-Like Scheme Six former employees of National Prearranged Services were sentenced recently for their involvement in a Ponzi-like scheme involving the sale of prearranged funeral contracts. Victims of the scheme include individual customers, funeral homes and state insurance guarantee associations across the country. Five defendants pleaded guilty to various counts of fraud and were sentenced to terms consistent with their respective plea agreements. James Douglas Cassity was sentenced to 115 months in prison; Randall Sutton received 84 months; Brent Douglas Cassity received 60 months; Howard Wittner received 36 months and Sharon Nekol Province received 18 months. The sixth defendant, David Wulf, refused to take a plea agreement and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The defendants, acting through NPS and Lincoln Memorial Life Insurance Company had defrauded more than 97,000 customers in more than 16 states, hundreds of funeral homes and multiple financial institutions, causing more than $450 million in losses. The defendants were ordered to pay $435 million in restitution. Wittner was ordered to repay $10.5 million.

Update on Electronic Death Certificate Registration The Division of Vital Records has advised us that they have identified some items during the connectivity testing and are currently awaiting a new release to address these items. Source: Debra Romberger, Director of Vital Records

Reminder: No Online Continuing Education Courses Approved for PA Licensees Online continuing education credits have not been approved by the State Board for PA licensed funeral directors. Therefore, no hour of online continuing education may be used to satisfy the requirement to complete 6 hours of continuing education in each biennial renewal period. If you are planning to include online credits towards those required six credits for renewal of your PA funeral license, you will not be in compliance with the continuing education requirements.


Due to the number of calls from Funeral Directors still needing CE credits – we scheduled a CE program for:

Earn 1-6 CE credits
Monday, January 13, 2014
9:00 am – 4:45 pm - Holiday Inn -Grantville

Call PFDA to register NOW! 1-800-692-6068

Changes with the Pennsylvania Military Funeral Honors Starting December 3, 2013, the Pennsylvania Military Funeral Honors main headquarters has moved back to Fort Indiantown Gap from Elizabethtown. Walt Burnett has been promoted to Director of the Southeastern Region. Kimberly A. Fauth, SSG, PA Army National Guard, has replaced Walt as the Military Funeral Honors State Coordinator.

Their new office phone number is (717) 861-8694 and their fax number is (717) 861-8323 or email the coordinator at kimberly.a.fauth.mil@mail.mil. The new mailing address is Building 4-56, Fort Indiantown Gap, Annville, PA 17003-5002. Please begin to forward your requests for funeral Honors on the enclosed request form. Any and all requests for Military Funeral Honors need to go through this office.

Litigation Initiated Against McAllister Institute The International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards (The Conference) in Fayetteville, Arkansas has initiated litigation against the American Academy McAllister Institute of Funeral Service in New York City. According to a news release, the allegations include copyright infringement and trade secret misappropriation related to intellectual property interests of Conference examinations, specifically the National Board Exam – both Arts and Sciences sections.

Through its due diligence, the Conference discovered what it alleges to be an apparent exam item-harvesting scheme operated by the school and its principals. On October 28, 2013, the U. S. District Court, Southern District of New York granted The Conference a seizure and impoundment order that permitted The Conference to seize technology and documents potentially related to the alleged scheme. Questions regarding this litigation should be directed to director@theconferenceonline.org.

Disclosing a Discount to a Consumer If the funeral home receives any type of discount or rebate that is not passed on to the consumer, it is considered to be a mark-up on the cash advance and the funeral home would have to list it after the mandatory disclosure which states: "We charge you for our services in obtaining.....". For example, if the cemetery plot is listed as a cash advance and the funeral home receives a 2% rebate from the cemetery that is not passed on to the consumer, the funeral home must state on the Statement of Funeral Goods and Services adjacent to the cash advance listing: "We charge you for our services in obtaining the cemetery plot."
Source: T. Scott Gilligan, NFDA General Counsel

Thank You ......I want to extend a sincere thank you to all of our members and their families, who sent cards, sent donations to the church, emails and called me. Your expressions of sympathy and prayers are so appreciated. My sister and I were overwhelmed by the generosity of your contributions for our mother, Ethel Persing Klett. I am indeed blessed to work with such a fine group of individuals. Again, thank you so very much. Kathleen Ryan, PFDA General Counsel


MARK YOUR CALENDAR NOW.... 2014 Annual Convention & Expo

June 8 – 11│Holiday Inn – Grantville

Keynote Speakers: The two best writers on American ways of death, burial and grieving have combined their considerable knowledge and experience and given us an important book of record for generations to come:
Dr. Thomas Long
Thomas Lynch


Deceased Do Not Contact List The Direct Marketing Association (DMA), a member organization for businesses that market goods and services to consumers by mail, email and telephone, has developed a Deceased Do Not Contact list (DDNC). All DMA members are prohibited from soliciting individuals named on the list. Consumers may add a decedent to the DDNC list by visiting www.dmachoice.org and providing the deceased's name, address, telephone number and email address along with another email address that is used to verify the registration. A new, updated DDNC is distributed to DMA members at least once every three months.


START 2014 OFF RIGHT!!!

MID-WINTER MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE
February 11 -13
Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington, PA

TIMELY COTINUING EDUCATION:
Kenneth Gronbach - a leading generational marketer/demographer
Kelly Terwisscha, CEO,TWC - funeral home designers/builders/renovators

These guys are good!

Treat your special Valentine to a special getaway!!!

Registration Brochure with details enclosed --- earn 6 CE credit hours.


2013 Annual Citrin Cooperman Survey Finds Profitability, Cremation and Non-traditional Low-cost Funerals Still Major Concerns The following is a summary of information reported by Citrin Cooperman in October 2013 from their annual survey of more than 200 funeral home owners and directors representing more than 300 funeral homes primarily in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.


Changes in Funeral Service: Topping the list were personalization of services, technology and the growth of preneed. The principal negative issues raised by respondents were the increase in cremation/direct disposition and the trend toward lower-cost funerals/decrease in full services. Secondary issues include changing attitudes/price shoppers, the poor economy and increasing regulation.

Funeral homes are adding more offerings and options (packages) and becoming more flexible, such as making adjustments in pricing to recoup profits from services that are being lost in the declining sales of caskets. The increased importance of communication is apparent as there are increasing efforts to promote the value of viewing and services, educating families about options and preneed, and listening to customers.

Cremation Trends: The relative growth of cremation as a percentage of business replicated prior years' survey results. Cremation accounted for 36 % of the business of those surveyed in 2013. Cremation accounts for about 50% more business than it did five years ago. There continues to be a gradual yet uneven increase in the percentage of cremations that include a viewing or memorial service. Of the cremations held by these businesses in 2013, 59% included a viewing/memorial service.

Salaries: Average salaries for funeral directors increased across virtually all experience levels. Slight decreases shown in the "most experienced" category were the result of the creation of a separate category for funeral home owners, which resulted in slightly lower but purer averages for experienced non-owners.

Pricing Trends: Pennsylvania showed the greatest increase in average pricing and continued the recent pattern of steady annual growth. Other regions showed little change from year to year.

Business Issues: The subject of serving food and beverages in funeral homes is a controversial one, as funeral directors were evenly divided between those who favor and those who oppose the practice. The vast majority of funeral homes that use celebrants still outsource this service. It's still a minority portion that take advantage of the opportunity to enhance their bottom line by marking up the service for a profit rather than passing on this cost as a cash advance. Those who mark-up the service reported an increase in profit margin from 40 to 50%.

Preneed Funding & Arrangements: Almost two-thirds continue to guarantee prearrangements. Respondents said that preneed accounts constitute a substantial value averaging over 75% of their annual revenue. [To request a copy of the full survey results contact Bob Zeitlinger at bzeitlinger@b2zcommunications.com] Source: Citrin Cooperman is a Top 100 full-service regional accounting, tax and consulting firm with offices in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and the Cayman Islands.


In Memoriam

Robert A. Bartron, age 78, of Montrose died on November 23, 2013 at his home. He was the former owner and operator of the Robert A. Bartron Funeral Home in Montrose. He served both as Chief Deputy Coroner and Coroner of Susquehanna County.
Elaine Talbert Martin, age 89, of Millcreek Township died on November 24, 2013 at her residence. She was the mother of John (Jack) Martin, Funeral Supervisor at Dusckas-Martin Funeral Home and Crematory, Inc. in Erie.

PFDA December Holiday Office Closings PFDA will be closed in observance of Christmas from December 24 at 12 Noon until Friday, December 27. In observance of the New Year's Day holiday, the association office will close on Monday, December 31 at Noon and will reopen on Thursday, January 2, 2014.

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