Nova Scotia

Police investigate Sydney funeral home for possible fraud

Cape Breton Regional Police are investigating a complaint of alleged fraud against S.W. Chant and Son Funeral Home in Sydney.

Service Nova Scotia asked police to investigate Chant's Funeral Home

Cape Breton Regional Police are investigating a fraud complaint involving S.W. Chant and Son funeral home. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

Cape Breton Regional Police are investigating a complaint of alleged fraud against S.W. Chant and Son Funeral Home in Sydney.

The complaint came from Service Nova Scotia, which regulates the funeral industry in Nova Scotia.

News of the police investigation comes just weeks after a suspicious fire at the funeral home, which is closed indefinitely.

The department first launched an investigation into the home's financial records after a family complained about a funeral service in December of 2017.

Officials found that the family had a contract with the funeral home for a prepaid service, but their money had not been placed in trust.

"There was a general concern that we had at the time which is why we decided to put a notice out to the public in the spring of 2018," said Rodger Gregg, registrar of cemetery and funeral services for Service Nova Scotia.

'This is unusual for us to see'

Service Nova Scotia suspended Chant's licence to sell prepaid funerals. And in the following months, 49 other people came forward with contracts amounting to about $170,000, said Gregg. The department worked with the funeral home to have that money repaid.

After the funeral home's operating licence was suspended following last month's fire, three more people came forward with contracts totaling $10,000, he said. And his office received 26 more calls Monday, following news reports that the business is closing for good.

Gregg doesn't know what the funeral home did with the money that was supposed to go into trust.

"The legislation gives us the authority to go in and inspect all the records and accounts of the funeral home. But it's only subject to what we're shown. So there could be other records out there, I don't know," he said.

Gregg said he hasn't seen a situation like this before.

"Not to this extent. This is unusual for us to see."

'First I am hearing of it'

Funeral home owner Sheldon Chant declined an interview on Monday. In an email, he said the police investigation into financial issues was news to him.

"It is the first I am hearing of it," said Chant.

He did confirm that the funeral home is closed indefinitely.

"The building is damaged beyond repair, and the engineers have major concerns of the safety of the structure so it will be coming down."

About the Author

Holly Conners is a reporter and current affairs producer who has been with CBC Cape Breton since 1998. Contact her at holly.conners@cbc.ca.