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Bay County Man Hopes to help Funeral Fraud Victims

Bay County Man Hopes to help Funeral Fraud Victims

A 22-year-old Bay County man is the new owner of a funeral home in Hampton Township. Near the top of his list of goals is helping local families victimized by the home’s former funeral home manager.

Spencer A. Skorupski on March 1 opened Skorupski Family Funeral Home & Cremation Services. Skorpuski’s building previously housed Stapish Cederberg Funeral Home East, which closed in late 2011 after manager Erica Cederberg Kaznowski was charged with embezzlement for stealing her customers’ prepaid funeral funds.

Skorupski graduated from Bay City Western High School in 2008 and then left the area to serve apprenticeships in Flint and metro Detroit. He attended the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science, where he served as class president before graduating in 2011. He worked as a funeral director in Terra Haute, Ind., before returning to Bay County in February.

“I’ve always wanted to come back home and this was a good opportunity for me to return home to take care of my hometown area,” Skorupski told MLive.com. “Not only am I able to return home to take care of my hometown community, it’s also my hope and intention to restore the goodwill in this area, because this building has been a source of hope and comfort for a lot of area families in the time that it was a funeral home.”

Skorupski says he plans on doing all he can for Kaznowski’s victims to re-establish his profession’s level of trust with the public.

“I will do whatever I can to help out all of those families and those whose funds are not able to be recovered, I will be providing my services and merchandise at-cost,” he said. “It’s important to note that the majority of funeral home directors and operators are good, upstanding citizens in the community, but these families clearly were wronged and should not have to pay twice, and I believe it’s the right thing to do.”

Skorupski said he has not yet been contacted by those who fell victim to the fraud.

A Bay County jury in October 2012 convicted Kaznowski of six counts of conversion of prepaid funeral services and single charges of racketeering and conducting a criminal enterprise. Throughout the trial, Assistant Attorney General Denise Hart presented evidence that Kaznowski embezzled $436,000 from 89 customers who paid in advance for funerals between 2005 and 2011.

Bay County Circuit Judge Joseph K. Sheeran in November 2012 sentenced Kaznowski to seven to 20 years in prison and ordered her to pay $436,135.69 in restitution.

Skorupski’s said he plans to operate his business with a commitment to personalizing every funeral, he said.

“We’ve tried to focus on each individual funeral ceremony as a celebration of life,” Skorupski said. “We only have one opportunity to get this right for a family. We can’t come back 10 years from now and redo it.”

For example, if the deceased was a boating enthusiast or motorcyclist, he would encourage the family to bring the boat to the business’s parking lot or have the motorcycle in the chapel.

“There’s no request that I haven’t been able to honor yet,” Skorupski said. “If it will bring comfort to the family and help them through their grief, then I’ll do whatever I can to facilitate that.”

Skorupski’s serves customers regardless of their faith, background or financial circumstances. An all-inclusive service which features preparation of the deceased, transportation, use of facilities, a casket, a vault, flowers and stationary starts at $4,995. Included for free is a DVD memorial tribute, a laminated bookmark obituary, access to the business’s bereavement resources, a crucifix or cross and a remembrance website.

Skorupski holds the Certified Funeral Service Practitioner designation, meaning he has completed an annual 20 hours of continuing education.

Also working at the funeral home are Skorupski’s father, Gil Skorupski, and mother, Diane Skorupski, who help with maintenance and clerical tasks, respectively.

Skorupski’s aunt, Claudi Skorupski, and Elaine Strzelecki work as receptionists and Tim Wisniewski serves as a funeral assistant.

Coincidentally, Skorupski’s great-grandfather opened a funeral home in Reed City exactly 100 years ago in 1913. That business, McDowell Funeral Home, is still in operation.

“Death changes everything to a family,” Skorupski said. “Somebody loses their spouse, their best friend, their father or mother, it changes their normal, so by creating a meaningful ceremony, it helps the family begin to heal and find their way to a new normal.”

 

Waterman, C. Bay County man hopes to help funeral fraud victims, LegalNews, March 19, 2013. www.legalnews.com

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