WASHINGTON, D. C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today announced that his office has obtained a temporary restraining order against Austin Royster Funeral Home that prevents the company from conducting business and freezes its assets. The order results from a consumer lawsuit that Attorney General Racine filed Monday, November 20, against the home, located at 502 Kennedy Street NW in Brightwood Park. The lawsuit alleges that the home and its owners and operators did business without the proper licenses and charged grieving families for services it did not provide.
The restraining order, which came with the defendants’ consent, applies to the funeral home; to James Agee, the home’s Managing Funeral Director; and to Jamelle Royster Conley, the home’s Chief Operating Officer. It prevents them from taking any further payments from consumers or offering funeral services to consumers. The order also freezes the assets of the home and the individual defendants.
“This order is an important step in preventing any more harm to consumers,” said Attorney General Racine. “We will continue to work to ensure that the loved ones of these deceased individuals get closure and restitution for any financial losses as a result of Austin Royster’s actions.”
A copy of the temporary restraining order is attached.
OAG’s lawsuit against Austin Royster alleges that the home has been operating without proper licensing for substantial periods of time, which means that families could not receive death certificates for their deceased loved ones and conclude their affairs. Without a death certificate, consumers are unable to access the deceased’s bank accounts and insurance policies, begin probate proceedings, or even bury or cremate their loved one’s body.
The funeral home, OAG’s lawsuit alleges, also failed to provide funeral services as promised and misappropriated consumer funds. This includes allegedly accepting an insurance payment of $53,000 for services costing $5,767 and failing to return the $47,243 owed to the consumer. The lawsuit is available here.
For Consumers Who May Have Been Harmed by Austin Royster’s Actions
If you are a District resident and think you may have been the victim in this case or from any type of fraud or scam, you can file a consumer complaint by calling OAG’s Consumer Protection Hotline at (202) 442-9828, sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or submitting your complaint via this webform.
To learn more about how to protect yourself from businesses that take advantage of consumers, visit OAG’s Consumer Protection Library at https://oag.dc.gov/consumerprotection.
For Families Whose Loved Ones’ Remains Were in Austin Royster’s Possession
As the result of an ongoing investigation, remains of deceased individuals have been removed from the Austin Royster Funeral Home and are now in the possession of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME). Attorney General Racine and the District’s Chief Medical Examiner, Roger A. Mitchell, are asking families who have recently worked with Austin Royster to call OCME at (202) 698-9000to get more information and make alternative arrangements.