Board Upholds Ruling That Revoked Funeral Home License

Thursday, April 12th 2007, 5:57 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) The Oklahoma Funeral Board rejected an appeal Thursday by the owner and director of a Purcell funeral home whose license was revoked in February for selling prepaid funeral benefits without a license.

Charles "Mike" Damet, 50, also faces felony charges of selling drugs out of the business.

Billy Coyle, Damet's attorney, asked board members to modify the ruling suspending Damet's license until Damet -- who was present at the hearing -- can address the accusations against him.

"This was an outstanding funeral home while he was operating it," Coyle said in a story first reported on The Oklahoman's Web site. "This is his livelihood, and these accusations shouldn't affect his ability to operate, embalm and conduct funerals.

"He wasn't negligent in operating his funeral home. He did a good job and didn't have complaints about his services."

The board voted unanimously to deny the appeal and uphold its previous ruling based on testimony from Oklahoma Insurance Department attorney Darren Ellingson.

An investigation is under way by the insurance department into whether funds from prepaid funeral benefits Damet sold were misused.

Investigators have identified nine people who bought prepaid funeral packages totaling more than $55,000 from Damet, for which no money can be found, Ellingson said.

Damet's license to sell prepaid funeral packages expired in 2004. However, records show he continued to sell the benefits after that date and failed to deposit the money into a trust fund, which is a violation of state law, Ellingson said.

Coyle said the board's findings were unjust. No charges have been filed against Damet on the accusations that he mishandled the funds. He denies all the allegations and is working to clear his name and become a funeral director again, Coyle said.

"They (the funeral board) didn't revoke his license for anything he's done as a funeral director," he said. "They solely based their decision on the prepaid trust issues, and he's adamant that he can prove the money is there and that these people can get their money back. He never hurt anyone in any way."

A court order keeping Damet from going into the funeral home to look at his records has slowed the process of accounting for the money, Coyle said.

Damet faces multiple felony drug charges in McClain County District Court from a Feb. 13 police raid which launched the Insurance Department's inquiry into his business.

Five others also were arrested in that raid. Law enforcement officers said they found methamphetamine, marijuana and prescription drugs in the funeral home and attached quarters where Damet lived.