Two cemeteries ordered to stop pre-need sales

By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal

CORINTH – Two cemeteries owned by Wayne Hight of Corinth have been ordered by the secretary of state to quit selling pre-need services to the public.
The order takes effect immediately, with an administrative hearing in the case set for 10:30 a.m. Friday in Jackson.
A review of books and records of Forrest Memorial Park in Corinth and Oaklawn Memorial Park in Booneville revealed a shortage of more than $100,000 in the trust accounts for pre-need services, according to Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.
“Our agency feels it is in the best interest to the public that we order these cemeteries to cease and desist with pre-need sales until we can determine they can adequately service their contractual obligations,” said Hosemann.
Hight Funeral Home is located on property that adjoins Forrest Memorial Park, but it is not part of this action, Hosemann said.
People who have existing lots and contracts with either of the two cemeteries should continue to make insurance premium payments, Hosemann said, as a separate account has been set up to receive the funds until a final determination is made.
“This cease and desist order is for future pre-need sales only for vaults, markers and grave opening/closing services paid in either a lump sum or monthly installments,” Hosemann said.
A phone call to Hight for comment was not returned.
Two other Northeast Mississippi cemeteries in Booneville and Baldwyn were placed in receivership with the secretary of state’s office in 2009 after similar irregularities were uncovered.
In 2009, the Mississippi Legislature passed a law giving the secretary of state’s office more oversight in the sale of pre-need contracts.
Licensed pre-need providers, which must be cemeteries or funeral homes, must report to chancery court as well as the secretary of state and the law raises the penalty for violations from $5,000 to $10,000. Funds established after July 1, 2009, also must place $10 for each pre-need contract sold into a fund to pay claims for insolvent cemeteries.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
lena.mitchell@journalinc.com