HURON – More than two dozen formal complaints lodged against Restlawn Memory Gardens south of Huron are part of an active investigation being conducted by the South Dakota Attorney General’s office.
Public Information Officer Sara Rabern confirmed that an investigation is under way.
Late last summer, the Beadle County State’s Attorney’s office began getting calls from clients of Restlawn Memory Gardens, complaining that they had been waiting for six months to more than a year for markers and headstones for loved ones buried at the cemetery.
Many of the calls were referrals from the local funeral homes, said State’s Attorney Mike Moore.
“Primarily the concern that we were originally dealing with was that they (Restlawn clients) weren’t getting memorials placed,” he said.
“They had paid for these memorials and they weren’t getting placed,” he said.
Moore issued a press release and also began referring the callers to the attorney general’s office. He said he has also been advising callers they could pursue a small claims case in civil court against Restlawn, but that it didn’t appear to him to involve anything criminal.
Rabern said 26 formal complaints have been filed with the state so far. She said she anticipates more complaints based on the number of phone calls the office continues to receive.
Moore said the matter is now in the hands of the attorney general’s office.
“They’re going to handle it; if they need my help they will contact me,” he said.
Moore said he knows that Restlawn’s owner has an attorney and that there have been conversations between that individual and the attorney general’s office.
Since it was decided that it is a consumer protection issue, he is not pursing the matter simultaneously.
“If the investigation turns out to be criminal, then they might bring me back in to do the prosecution,” Moore said.
Asked what would make the case a criminal one, Moore said it would be if it was alleged that money was taken under false pretensions – if markers were sold with no intention of delivering them.
He conceded it would be a difficult theft case to prove.
“I think that the goal of the attorney general’s office would be to make everybody whole,” he said. “I would guess they would either have to deliver the markers or refund the money.”
Restlawn Memory Garden has been the focus of an investigation by the S.D. Attorney General’s office, after numerous complaints about markers paid for, but not yet received and placed.
Photo by Angelina Della Rocco/Plainsman