48 people could be out thousands after prepaying for service with Wheeler Funeral Home, says receiver

Judge, receiver, interested parties and Funeral Board representatives met in a courtroom on Friday to try and figure out what to do about a Transcona funeral home which has declared bankruptcy.

Receivership Company Lazer Grant Inc. says sum of unaccounted for funds is $121,000

Interested parties met in a courtroom on Friday to try and sort out the bankruptcy of a Winnipeg Funeral Home. (CBC)

At least 48 people could be out thousands after pre-paying for service with Wheeler Funeral Home, says the court-appointed receiver managing the business's bankruptcy.

The Transcona business went into receivership March 20 and is being managed by Lazer Grant Inc. before resale.

The receivers and applicants for the receivership — BDC bank, Canada Revenue Agency and a lawyer for Shawn Price, a former business partner of former Wheeler Funeral Home director Chad Wheeler — appeared before Court of Queen's Bench Justice Chris Martin on Friday.

Collin LeGall, trustee for Lazer Grant Inc., said funds and records are missing for 48 people so far, amounting to a total of $121,000. Those individuals prepaid for services between 2012 and February of this year, he said.

LeGall told the court that each of those cases has been referred to the financial crimes unit of the Winnipeg Police Service, which is continuing its investigation.

The lawyer for the receivership company requested that Martin consider freezing the remaining funds in trust to preserve them as an asset for future buyers.

About $900,000, belonging to 400 people, is secure in trust.

"My focus is the folks that have prepaid, and have their expectations met," said Martin, who did not act on the lawyer's request.

No pre-paid funeral licence since 2015

Previously, the court was told Wheeler Funeral Home has not been licensed to provide pre-paid services in trust under the Prearranged Funeral Services Act since 2015.

Money for a pre-paid funeral can also be put into insurance with an insurance company. To access it, a funeral director must be licensed as a restricted insurance agent with the Insurance Council of Manitoba.

Chad Wheeler, who ran the business, does not currently hold one of these licences and a spokesperson for the agency could not provide information on whether Wheeler ever held this licence.

According to Lazer Grant Inc., prepaid services were being sold at Wheeler Funeral Home up until it went into receivership in March.

Wheeler has a valid funeral director's licence with the Manitoba Funeral Board, and previously told CBC News he is still providing funeral and celebration of life services at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd and St.George's Anglican Church — which the pastors of both churches confirm — as well as cremation services from an undisclosed location.

No complaints: funeral board

A Manitoba Funeral Board representative told Justice Martin in court on Friday that there have been no complaints from the public that would have triggered an investigation into Wheeler Funeral Home. 

Martin asked LeGall to provide a list and contact information for all members of the public who have complained so far to his company.

The Funeral Board agreed with the judge's request that they work with the receivership company to settle several matters in the days ahead, involving ashes still in storage and assistance with laws surrounding prearranged funeral services.

"I think more needs to be done to facilitate the proper handling of these things," said Martin.

CBC has reached out to Chad Wheeler for comment.