By Tony Flesor, LAW WEEK COLORADO
A March 9 verdict marked the last piece to fall in a six-year lawsuit over a Ponzi scheme with thousands of victims.
Reilly Pozner was lead counsel on the trial, which was heard in U.S. District Court for the District of St. Louis in Missouri. The verdict cost PNC Bank more than $350 million dollars for the involvement of an acquired bank in a national pre-arranged funeral scheme. Although the perpetrators have already seen their days in court, PNC Bank was the last of 35 defendants and was pursued for its complicity in the larger scheme.
From 1980 to 2008, National Prearranged Services, a memorial services company led by disbarred attorney Doug Cassity, offered pre-need funeral services to customers in Missouri and, eventually, more than 20 states. People were given the opportunity to plan and pay for their own eventual funerals and avoid placing the burden on their families.
According to Missouri law, 80 percent of the money collected for pre-need services must be put in a bank trust in a state- or federally chartered bank. The bank is then required to control the money and keep records so it is available at the time of the funeral; in the case of NPS, it was to be spent on life insurance policies through two providers, also controlled by NPS, Lincoln Memorial and Memorial Services Life Insurance, which would be used to fund the funerals.