CHAMPAIGN — The state agency that licenses funeral directors in Illinois has ordered Robert L. Perry, owner of Perry's Twin City Mortuary Service in Champaign, to stop acting as a funeral director because he is not licensed.
The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation issued a cease-and-desist letter to Perry, ordering him to not meet with family members of recently deceased people and plan funeral arrangements, remove the remains of a body, conduct funeral services or deliver remains to a crematory or other places.
The department issued the order after concluding that Perry, who is unlicensed, reportedly meets with family members of recently deceased individuals, plans funeral arrangements and has taken custody of the remains of deceased individuals.
Perry said he is sending a written response to the department and the state should receive it by Tuesday.
"I am an unlicensed owner of the funeral home," he said. "None of my advertisements say I'm a director. We have staff that work for us. They are licensed," he said.
One of the funeral directors who works for Perry is Steven Edenfield, who does have a current license with the state.
No law requires owners of funeral parlors to be licensed funeral directors. But to do the work of selling funeral services or preparing or handling bodies, you must be licensed, said Sue Hofer, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
According to the Illinois Funeral Director and Embalmer Licensing Code, you're a funeral director if, for example, you prepare a body for burial (or cremation or other form of disposal), conduct "at need" funeral arrangements, take custody of (or move, or take care of) a body.
Someone can own or manage a funeral home or similar business without a license as long as that individual does not engage in any form of funeral directing, according to the code.
"We have licensed funeral directors and embalmers working with us. I don't go to hospitals and sign bodies out," Perry said. He said he may be at hospitals when individuals die, but that is because he may know the family.
In addition to owning Perry's Twin City Mortuary Service, Perry also is a minister at the Grove Street Church of God in Christ in Champaign.
He said he believes the state's investigation was prompted by complaints filed by other funeral home owners outside of Champaign County who feel threatened by the competition his business offers.
Perry said he has worked in the funeral business since the 1970s and started his own in the 1990s. The business handles services not only in Champaign-Urbana, but beyond the region as well, he said.
The Department of Financial and Professional Regulation does not disclose complainant information, Hofer said.
In May, the department sent notice to Perry of its investigation and his right to respond. The department did not receive a response, Hofer said.
The department is expected to conduct a follow-up investigation.
"If we find him still practicing, we will seek assistance from the state's attorney," Hofer said.
Any person who engages in the unlicensed practice of funeral directing is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor for the first offense and a Class 4 felony for a second and any subsequent offense, according to the law.
The license application process entails taking an exam, paying application and exam fees, meeting certain educational requirements, providing proof of completing an internship with a funeral director and supplying work history information and a health certificate. The application for a license for a funeral director and embalmer is $100 and the annual renewal is $50.