Officials investigate local funeral home

Forest Hill Cemetery is filled with people whose families had no problems with pre-paid services.  When Greg Hudson came here to bury his mother on Monday, there was a problem.

"There was going to be an additional four thousand dollar charge for the service," says Hudson.

Basically, a 30 year-old policy that was supposed to cover all arrangements would no longer do so.

"At that point, my father started to break down and my sister had an asthma attack," says Hudson.

Turns out, hundreds of other families are in the same boat.  Linda Mansell bought 13 pre-paid policies in 1976.

"We have six of them left," says Mansell.  "That's 24-thousand dollars that they're asking me to come up with on top of what I've already paid," she adds.

Forest Hill's Director of Operations blames the loss of benefits on the bankruptcies of the funeral home's previous owners.  He says his company had to renege in order to stay afloat itself.

"I still believe we have one of the finest funeral homes in the area," says Mike Haldeman.

But a little digging by Action News 5 found that the TBI is already investigating Forest Hill following complaints of inappropriate business dealings.

"We're devastated," says Paula Bethany.

She says her father bought two policies in the 70's for piece of mind.

"He's going to be crushed," says Bethany.  "How do you tell him it's not worth the paper it's written on?" she asks.

"This has been a travesty," says Greg Hudson.

These families say they won't rest until questions are answered and their policies honored.

Clayton Smart owns three funeral homes under the Forest Hill name in the Memphis area.  Published reports say he's under investigation in other states for illegally removing millions of dollars from trust fund accounts.  One of his cemeteries in Michigan was accused of exploiting Rosa Parks by donating crypts for Parks, her husband and mother, then raising the price of burial space near Parks' crypt.  Smart planned to hold a news conference Thursday morning in Memphis to address complaints.