'It's cruel': Woman details how she was defrauded by DC funeral home

- After the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia announced a lawsuit against a Northwest D.C. funeral home, more victims are coming forward.

The lawsuit alleges Austin Royster Funeral Home has been operating without proper licenses and stealing from customers. Chief Operating Officer Jamelle Royster and Managing Funeral Director James Agee are named in the lawsuit.

Mary Johnson says she hired Austin Royster Funeral Home for wake services when her father passed away on Oct. 2. Johnson tells FOX 5 that Royster convinced her to sign over her father’s live insurance policy check for more than $5,000. The service only cost about $3,300. Royster was to send the remaining balance of $1,700 to a funeral home in South Carolina where Johnson’s father had a funeral and was buried.

Johnson says it took several weeks for Royster to send a check. When she did, that check bounced. Johnson is now on the hook for the remaining balance of that funeral service and has not been able to get her money back from Austin Royster Funeral Home. She says this experience has been very difficult while grieving for her father.

"It's bad enough that you have to go through all the headaches and heartache,” Johnson said. “But to have to see people actually take advantage of you when you are going through the grieving process, it's cruel."

Johnson is also still waiting for her father’s death certificate. She told FOX 5 that Royster first told Johnson that her father’s doctor was out of town. The following week, Royster allegedly told Johnson she was waiting on the hospice facility where Johnson’s father stayed at the end of his life. When Johnson called that facility, they told her they had nothing to do with obtaining a death certificate for her father and they had not heard from Royster about the matter. 

Anyone who thinks they may be a victim of Austin Royster Funeral Home should contact the D.C.’s Attorney General’s Office at 202-698-9000.

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