A Grave Concern: Cemetery accused of double-selling plots

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HOLMDEL -

Losing a loved one is hard, but some families say problems at a New Jersey cemetery made it even worse. They say Holmdel Cemetery and its sales agent, Memorial Properties, double-sold locations, and they only found out when a relative died and someone else was buried in the spot they’d purchased years before.

“I’m on the hill, I’m going ‘Oh my God, what have they done?’” recalls Fay Gianaris, whose father died last August. She’d purchased a final resting place for her parents in 2012, and has the contract to prove it. So she was infuriated to find someone else buried there. The cemetery had dug a new grave in another location, on a slope she thought was too steep for her elderly mother.

Click play below to listen to the "Kane In Your Corner investigation: A Grave Concern" from the News 12 Talks New Jersey podcast:

When she complained, Gianaris says the cemetery’s sales agent produced a version of the contract that was altered. The plot number was changed, and the salesperson had added a handwritten note, that read “authorized by daughter, Fay.”

“That was not me,” Gianaris says bluntly. “They never spoke to me. They never contacted me. They never sent me a new contract.”

Gianaris isn’t alone. Kane In Your Corner found at least six cases of families complaining that they did not get locations they paid for. Rob Boyce, a former maintenance supervisor at the cemetery, says “There’s probably about 15 or 20 over there that I know of.”

In 2015, Boyce filed a complaint with the New Jersey Cemetery Board, part of the Attorney General’s Office. But the state declined to take action. It blamed the problem on “old maps”, adding that the issues had “all been rectified with the consumers and will not reoccur.” But several families tell Kane In Your Corner they had issues more recently, including Gianaris, whose father died last summer.

Boyce also wasn’t the only cemetery employee to express concerns. In 2014, the year before Boyce’s complaint, the cemetery’s administrator, Fran Chludzinski, submitted her resignation. In her resignation letter, she wrote that she and Boyce “were uncovering years of hidden problems,” which she blamed on Memorial Properties. “They have played with these maps like they were shifting pieces of a puzzle around to fit in more recent purchasers (so as not to lose a sale) to the detriment of those who pre-planned to be near family members, and it truly sickens me,” she wrote.

But Chludzinski never did resign. She’s still on the job and tells Kane In Your Corner she no longer believes what she wrote. “My feelings have changed because I learned things,” she said. She declined to provide an example of what she learned.

In a written statement, the owner of Memorial Properties, Larry Nikola said, “Memorial Properties did not and does not maintain the Cemetery’s maps or grave sale records nor does it locate graves for interments. Those duties are borne by the Cemetery Administration.”

But after declining to take action in 2015, the New Jersey attorney general is now giving Holmdel Cemetery and Memorial Properties a second look. “The cemetery board has received additional complaints against Holmdel Cemetery, the matter is under review,” says spokesperson Lisa Coryell. The statement is out of character since the Attorney General’s Office rarely confirms or denies investigations.

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