Ypsilanti crematorium ordered closed, state officials trying to ID bodies

The Detroit News
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A Ypsilanti crematory owner who has previously run afoul of Michigan’s laws concerning funeral homes and cemeteries has again drawn state sanctions.

The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs and Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office Friday issued a cease and desist order against Tri-County Cremation Services, LLC and its owners, O’Neil Swanson II and Dianne Swanson, according to a press release.

The order instructs the Swansons to stop operating a crematory without a registration, to immediately cease all operations at 1106 E. Michigan Ave. in Ypsilanti and to provide proof to the state cemetery commissioner that O’Neil Swanson II no longer owns or operates the businesses.

Swanson funeral home in Flint.

O'Neil Swanson II pleaded no contest in July 2019 to two felony counts of failing to escrow prepaid funeral contract funds in connection with a former funeral home in Flint.

The Ypsilanti investigation began after LARA received an anonymous complaint that alleged heavy smoke was coming from the crematory chimney, bodies were awaiting cremation and not being properly stored and bodily fluids were leaking onto the floor of the facility, according to the press release.

Evidence during the course of the investigation found:

  • In March 2020, O’Neil Swanson II and Dianne Swanson purchased the crematory business without first receiving a certificate of approval from the state’s cemetery commissioner.
  • In early 2021, Tri-County Cremation Services, LLC identified O’Neil Swanson II as its “member” on filings made with LARA’s Corporations Division.
  • Bodies were being improperly stored and bodily fluids were leaking onto the floor of the facility.

A person who answered the phone at Tri-County Cremation Services Friday afternoon referred The Detroit News to Klint Kesto, an attorney with the Fraser Trebilcock law firm.

Asked about the allegations, Kesto said, “We just got the information from LARA, we’ll try to go through it and try to resolve any issues. But we just got the information.”

O’Neil Swanson II operated Swanson Funeral Home in Flint and was fined several times before the funeral home's license was revoked. Inspectors previously found decomposing bodies and unsanitary conditions at the Flint facility, which closed in 2017. 

During its investigation, LARA learned he had been advertising and selling prepaid funeral contracts without a proper license, investigators said. The department turned over the case to the AG's office.

Search warrants executed on the business and Swanson’s residence found that he "deposited some of the prepaid funeral funds into his business account that was used for business and personal spending, instead of depositing that money into an escrow account as required by law," state officials said at the time. "The investigation also found about 70 prepaid contracts, totaling more than $75,000, were either unfunded, underfunded or not properly escrowed."

He was sentenced in September of 2019 in Genesee County Circuit Court to an 11-month delayed sentence and ordered to pay more than $75,000 in restitution.

Because of his conviction, Swanson's mortuary science license and the mortuary science establishment license were revoked and “Swanson is ineligible to hold a controlling interest in a cemetery or crematory under the Act,” according to the press release.

LARA and the attorney general’s office are working to identify bodies still awaiting cremation at Tri-County Cremation Services. Members of the public with concerns can contact LARA at (517) 241-7000 or by email at CSCLonline@michigan.gov.

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