State: Funeral home used lower quality caskets than agreed upon

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RIPLEY, Miss. — A Mississippi funeral home has been fined $10,000 for what authorities say was an illegal practice of burying people in lower quality caskets than planned before their deaths.

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann issued a statement Tuesday detailing the practice by Ripley Funeral Services LLC.

The statement says the Ripley funeral home substituted plastic burial containers for concrete ones eight times between 2017 and 2018 and substituted high-quality metal caskets with low-quality ones nine times. It says the parlor also substituted different color caskets than what pre-need policy owners chose about 20 times between 2016 and 2018.

"There was no criminal conduct ever alleged," funeral home attorney Tony Farese said.

Farese disputes the state's claim that the substituted caskets were of inferior quality and said all changes were made with the consent of the concerned families.

“If we demand not to wait four to five days and they can’t get a concrete vault by that time, then we’d have to make a substitution," Farese said. "Basically, we have innocent substitutions trying to accommodate family members and that technically was a violation of the contract."

Farese said a disgruntled employee reported the violations to the state, which began investigating in September 2018. He said no families have complained.

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