Former Funeral Home Operators Charged with Misappropriating Funds

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 15, 2011

CONTACT:
Erica Terry Derryck, DA Gascón’s Office, (415) 553-1167
ADA Seth Steward, DA Gascón’s Office, (415) 553-1014

SAN FRANCISCO – District Attorney George Gascón announced today the charging of Derek Washington, age 38 of Oakland, and Donald Rollins, age 56 of Fairfield, the operators of a now-defunct funeral home for misappropriating customer funds intended to pay for funeral services.

“The victims in this case spent their hard-earned money to prepare a dignified and proper funeral for themselves or their loved ones,” said District Attorney Gascón. “What these defendants have allegedly done has not only robbed these families of their money, it may have prevented some of these individuals from realizing their last wishes of having a proper funeral and freeing their families of the burden of the associated expenses.”

According to court documents, the defendants operated a funeral home called Funerals by Washington, located at 1641 LaSalle Avenue in San Francisco. The defendants are alleged to have accepted advance payments for funeral services over the course of several years and placed those funds in the funeral home’s general operating account.

These payments were accepted as part of a standard practice in the funeral business known as “preneed” arrangements in which funeral homes accept advance payments for funeral services. The law requires “preneed” payment funds be put in trust accounts and not be used for a funeral home’s operating expenses.

The District Attorney’s Office is aware of seven alleged victims of Funerals by Washington, who claim to have lost a total of approximately $30,000. These individuals did business with Funerals by Washington over a period of several years, beginning in March 2004 and ending in January 2009 when Funerals by Washington ceased operating.

The defendants have been charged with seven counts of grand theft each and 16 counts each of violating the laws regulating “preneed” arrangements, all felonies. If convicted of all charges, the defendants face a maximum sentence of 17 years and eight months in state prison.

Defendant Washington surrendered to authorities on February 9, 2011. He posted bail in the amount of $60,000 and is out of custody awaiting arraignment in Department 10 on February 16, 2011 at 1:30 pm. There is a warrant for the arrest of defendant Rollins with bail set at $30,000. He remains at large.

The prosecution is the result of an investigation led by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigations. Evan Ackiron is the Assistant District Attorney prosecuting the case.

Anyone who believes that they have been a victim of Funerals by Washington should contact the Special Investigations Unit at (415) 551-9564.