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Wednesday, 01 February 2012 20:06

Tombstone buyers in grave situation with Moody Funeral Home

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It’s been nearly a year-and-a-half since Edna Queen lost her son, and despite forking over $1,100 for a headstone to mark his gravesite in Fairview Memorial Gardens in Sylva, there’s nothing but a patch of grass where his body lies.

No matter how many times she called Reg Moody, Jr., the owner of Moody Funeral Home and Fairview cemetery, the answer was always the same.

“He kept telling us it would be up next month, next month, next month, and it never did come. The money is gone. It is just awful,” Queen said.

Unfortunately, Queen isn’t alone. There are more than 30 complaints against Moody Funeral Home in Sylva for failing to deliver on grave markers that were paid for but never delivered. Some have been waiting for two or three years.

“To me, that is a lot of money,” said Queen, who’s cried over her son’s missing headstone many times. “Here I am 83 years old. People like me, we just draw Social Security. We just barely exist.”

Exactly when Queen and the 30 others like her will ever get the monuments they paid for is a mystery.

Moody Funeral Home closed in December after years of being dogged in court by collectors. Moody has resigned, and the funeral home has lost its state license.

A likely course of events at this point is a court-ordered liquidation — where all cash and assets are seized and sold off in order to pay what Moody owes, an amount that could clock in at more than half a million dollars.

The biggest problem for now, however, is figuring out exactly what Moody’s assets are. It’s been an ongoing dilemma that has frustrated the court, a string of collectors, and a court-appointed accountant tasked with sorting out Moody’s finances.

The court appointed an accountant to take over the financial side of Moody’s operations two years ago, but she has been stymied by Moody’s failure to turn over business records and bank statements, despite repeated court orders that Moody open his books.

Court documents reveal a tangled web of shell corporations, sole proprietorships and intermingled personal and business bank accounts that succeeded in staying one step ahead of those to whom Moody owed money.

A constant shuffling of business assets from one entity to another has been designed to “hinder, delay and defraud creditors,” according to Shelia Gahagan, a CPA in Waynesville who was appointed to act as a receiver.

Court filings contend that assets once owned by Moody — from its building, to vehicles, to equipment, to the business operation itself — have been siphoned to other entities in hopes of making them untouchable by creditors.

Further, income received by Moody has been placed in a personal bank account kept secret from Gahagan, court filings claim.

“Mr. Moody, Jr. opened a business account in his personal name, has deposited business funds into his personal account and has retained the profits of the business,” Gahagan wrote in court filings.

Moody funneled money from the funeral home into a personal account as part of the concerted and systematic effort to shield profits from collectors he owed money to, court filings claim.

Moody Funeral Home has been the target of a civil lawsuit dating back five years by a casket company owed $176,000 for coffins it delivered but was never paid for.

Last fall, the court finally threatened to hold him in contempt if he continued to stall Gahagan’s efforts to probe the finances and assets of the business — a threat that resulted in Moody resigning and the funeral home being shut down.

Exactly where those waiting for their tombstones are in the line of people owed money by Moody isn’t clear. In addition to money owed to the casket company, Moody also owes back state and federal taxes.

Another complaint against Moody has been the upkeep of his two cemeteries, namely Fairview Memorial Gardens in Sylva and Swain Memorial Park in Bryson City. Since the funeral home shut down in December, Gahagan has tapped limited businesses funds to perform basic maintenance that had been neglected in the cemeteries.

“He has received payments for services he has failed to perform, and most of these issues have been ongoing for years,” according to court papers filed by Gahagan. “Maintenance and performing services paid for are normal operations of a business.”

The ongoing saga involving Moody Funeral Home is common knowledge in Jackson County, but people such as Queen who already purchased burial plots in Fairview Memorial were over a barrel, she said. If they tried to buy their monument from another company, or if they wanted the funeral service performed by another funeral home, Moody would charge them extra for digging the grave or setting the stone, in effect forcing them to go through his funeral home, Queen said.

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