LANSING, Mich. -

A Michigan man has been charged with embezzling and defrauding customers and insurance companies from a Ionia County funeral home.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said Marti James Schrauben, 38, of Portland, is accused of embezzled nearly $500,000 from the Schrauben-Lehman Funeral Home where he was an employee. 

Schrauben allegedly created false death certificates and sent them to insurance companies in order to receive payment from funeral policies.

The investigation claims that Schrauben accepted money for pre-paid funerals from customers and failed to place the money into escrow accounts, as required by state law.

Instead, police said Schrauben embezzled the money for his own personal use. 

Although Schrauben’s name is associated with the funeral home, he had previously sold all his interest in the company and was working as an employee at the funeral home.

Tips to avoid this type of fraud when buying pre-paid funerals:

  • Know exactly what you are paying for and who will provide the services and merchandise you are purchasing.
  • Know who you are dealing with, who owns the firm and how long have they been in business?
  • Know what happens to the money once you pre-paid.
  • Know what happens to the interest income on money that is prepaid.
  • Know if you are protected if the firm you deal with goes out of business.
  • Know if you can cancel your contract and get a full refund if you change your mind.
  • Know if the arrangements are Portable, Transferrable and Refundable without penalty.
  • And ask yourself, "Are you feeling pressured or hurried to buy something? If so, by whom?”
  • Check if the seller is registered to sell prepaid funerals in Michigan
  • Check to see if the funeral home is a member of the Michigan Funeral Directors Association, whose members ascribe to a code of ethics