Forest Hill victims to receive money back - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Forest Hill victims to receive money back

Former Forest Hill Funeral Home owner Clayton Smart, at a press conference in 2006. Former Forest Hill Funeral Home owner Clayton Smart, at a press conference in 2006.

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Victims of embezzlement by a former Mid-South funeral home owner will soon begin getting their money back.

In July of 2006, Forest Hill Funeral Home owner Clayton Smart refused to honor pre-paid funeral contracts.  When people would arrive to bury their loved ones, he'd tell them they owed more money.

More than 14,000 people were affected.

Smart and two of his financial advisors, Mark Singer and Steven Smith were arrested for embezzlement.

Now, victims are getting their money back.  Attorney Max Shelton was charged with the task of tracking down money he says Clayton Smart and his financial advisors embezzled from thousands of Mid-Southerners.

"Part of the charge of the receiver is to try to take care of people that were victimized," Shelton said Tuesday.

According to Shelton, after an almost two-year crusade, victims who filed claims against Forest Hill Funeral Home will get their money back.

"We asked the court for permission to reimburse the people who had to pay more money and the court approved that," he said.

Smart also failed to buy grave stones for years.

"We've ordered about half of the remaining ones, and within the next 90 days we hope to get current on those," Shelton said.

Shelton says they dug deep to find the money.  Some of the recovered money had been moved as far away as Ireland.  Investigators never found money in the Cayman Islands as expected.

"Through many different loops and hedge funds, and hedge funds of hedge funds," Shelton said.

Shelton's team mailed out settlement forms to victims.  Most have filled them out to get reimbursed, but some victims have still not responded.

Investigators say Smart embezzled a total of $22 million.  So far, Shelton's team has tracked down about $14.5 million of that.

"We've got other steps to go, but this is getting there," he said.

But, Shelton added, they're still working to track down the other $7.5 million. Some of it will go to creditors, taxes and administrative costs.

You can find the customer forms you need to fill out to get your refund here and here.

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