TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Two former Tampa funeral home owners have been arrested on multiple grand theft charges.
Investigators say Julio Gonzalez-Roel and Lucia Gonzalez-Roel sold pre-need funeral contracts to consumers and then stole the money they collected on those contracts rather than placing the funds into a pre-need trust account as Florida law mandates.
A pre-need funeral contract is an arrangement in which a funeral provider accepts an advance payment in exchange for providing future funeral services to the consumer.
Julio and Lucia Gonzalez-Roel were arrested on April 18, 2016, and booked into the Hillsborough County Jail.
Their charges include: RICO (Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization), 18 combined counts of grand theft and 24 additional counts based upon violations of the Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services Practice Act.
Julio and Lucia Gonzalez-Roel are the previous owners of JGR Funeral Services, Inc., a funeral home located at 6718 North Armenia Avenue in Tampa.
JGR was at one time licensed to sell pre-need contracts but in 2009 that license expired and their application to renew the license was denied, meaning the company was selling pre-need contracts without the required licensure.
Florida law requires funeral homes to obtain a separate license to sell pre-need funeral contracts.
Julio Gonzalez-Roel’s funeral director and embalmer license was revoked in August 2009 after an arrest on similar charges.
Investigators say Gonzalez-Roels sold JGR Funeral Services in 2014, and Julio was kept on staff by the new owners. Shortly after, the business closed as a result of matters unrelated to the nvestigation.
After it closed, the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Funerals, Cemeteries, and Consumer Services began receiving complaints from consumers who alleged that their pre-need contracts had not been handled appropriately.
State investigators say that the Gonzalez-Roels stole funds associated with more than 50 pre-need contracts. In total, at least $181,000 was stolen.
To date, Florida’s Consumer Protection Trust Fund has returned $117,000 of the stolen funds to Florida consumers. The Florida Consumer Protection Trust Fund is a fund available to consumers who have purchased a pre-need contract and the funeral provider involved is unable to honor the contractual agreement.
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