P.E.I. funeral director faces 66 charges of fraud over pre-paid plan money

·2 min read
Dawson Funeral Home closed in August 2021, following a routine inspection by the Prince Edward Island Funeral Services and Professions Board. (Wayne Thibodeau/CBC - image credit)
Dawson Funeral Home closed in August 2021, following a routine inspection by the Prince Edward Island Funeral Services and Professions Board. (Wayne Thibodeau/CBC - image credit)

The director of a now-closed funeral home on P.E.I. was charged this week with 66 counts of fraud, in relation to how he handled money paid for prearranged funerals.

The charges were laid against 70-year-old Lowell Oakes of Crapaud on Thursday. They include 36 counts of fraud over $5,000, and 30 counts of fraud under $5,000.

RCMP Sgt. Craig Eveleigh said the investigation began when police received a complaint from a client of Dawson Funeral Home in August 2021.

"They'd been having issues getting their money back from a prearranged funeral," said Eveleigh.

"We were able to determine that there were numerous instances where clients in the Crapaud and surrounding area had dealt with Dawson's and the money had not been put in trust."

Under the P.E.I. Prearranged Funeral Services Act, someone who sells a prearranged funeral plan must place the funds into a trust account within 30 days of signing an agreement with the client.

Money unaccounted for

Oakes was the owner and director of Dawson Funeral Home.

In May, the Prince Edward Island Funeral Services and Professions Board announced it had revoked his funeral director and funeral home operator licences and fined him $15,000 in connection with the allegations.

We're talking money in the realm of hundreds of thousands of dollars. - Sgt. Craig Eveleigh

The funeral services board said issues with the way Oakes was handling prearranged funeral funds came to light during a routine inspection, also in August 2021.

While RCMP have already identified dozens of victims, Eveleigh said the investigation isn't over yet.

"There are probably other victims out there in the Crapaud and surrounding area," he said.

Nicola MacLeod/CBC
Nicola MacLeod/CBC

"We're asking anybody that hasn't already reported to police, if you believe that you have a prearranged funeral … with Dawson's, please contact the RCMP."

Instances could go back as far as 1996, Eveleigh said, adding that this was a complex investigation.

"It does take some time and a lot of documentation to get that in order," he said. "The money is unaccounted for and we're talking money in the realm of hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Dawson Funeral Home has been closed since August 2021, when its licences were suspended, RCMP said. Those licences proceeded to be revoked in March.

In April, CBC News reported that three legal actions had been filed against Oakes and his business in P.E.I.'s small claims court over prepaid funeral arrangements.

Oakes is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 22 to enter a plea.

CBC News tried to obtain a telephone interview with Oakes, but he refused to comment.

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