Always on the forefront of the funeral industry – Connecting Directors – a leading provider of funeral news was on top of this breaking story that may, as the facts come out, turn into a fraud inquiry…? Ryan, with Connecting Directors, interviewed via email former Funeral Divas, Inc board member – Monica Vernette Gray about the fiasco regarding the Chicago Conference. The conversation is reproduced with permission from Connecting Directors.
Hello Ryan. Thanks for reaching out to me. I had a feeling you would. : )
Man I don’t know where to start. OK … Tuesday (11/6/2012) the evening before the conference, Muneerah Warner called me from the hotel and stated there was a problem with her credit card…she had no idea what was wrong with her credit card…the hotel needed another credit card…made some remark about needing shelter…
The New York Chapter president of Funeral Divas paid for Ms. Warner’s hotel room for that evening (even though Ms. Warner told her that everything would be paid for) and my credit card was supposed to be used to HOLD (not charge or pay) until Ms. Warner straightened out the issue with her credit card. Without me being present, or my credit card being present, the hotel charged my credit card $1,750.00 for the conference rooms.
STORY #1: When I arrived at the hotel the following morning (Wednesday, 11/7/2012), Ms. Warner told me that while she was on the airplane en route to the conference, someone went to her bank in Alexandria, VA and withdrew $7,000.00 out of her account. She said the investigation into this was going to take 6 to 8 weeks … and the funds would not be available to her before then. I asked her to call someone to cover the cost of the hotel conference rooms and she said she had nobody to call. She said she only had $71 in her account.
In the meantime, I observed one of the presenters at the computer looking up addresses for local currency exchanges. She wanted to cash the $985.00 check that was presented to her by Ms. Warner. She also contacted the bank that the check was written on…and was told that the account the check was written on was no good. She told Ms. Warner she wanted cash, and Ms. Warner said she would ask ME for half of the money. !!!!! I drove this presenter to a local currency exchange and after approximately 20 minutes of phone time, the
currency exchange refused to cash the check.
STORY #2: As I remember this version of events relayed to me by the presenter, Ms. Warner told this presenter that a check had been deposited but had not cleared … and would not clear until Monday (11/12/2012).
Another presenter was also presented with a check by Ms. Warner…and Ms. Warner let her know that funds were not available to cover it.
The first presenter I mentioned above was livid, outraged … the whole gamut. I told Ms. Warner my displeasure at the ways she handled things. I told her that she took advantage of me and, after the out-of=town folks returned to their respective states, I would have to deal with the embarrassment and fallout of what she came to my hometown to do. I did not get the impression that Ms. Warner understood the magnitude and seriously of what was going on. The first presenter and I had yet another discussion about the incredible events, and she called the Rosemont Police Department in Rosemont, IL. The officers instructed the presenters on the proper handling of this situation, and told them they would have to seek relief in civil court.
After I expressed my dilemma to the police officers, they took the matter to the hotel management. I was about to call my bank, but one of the managers demanded that I not call the bank …and they reversed the charges immediately. They stated that Ms. Warner did not tell them to use my credit card to HOLD the conference rooms, but instructed them to go ahead and charge my credit card. There were no signed contracts with my signature on them with the hotel, and I never agreed to pay the hotel for the conference rooms. (In fact, I had ZERO contact with the hotel during the arrangement of this conference.) This left the $1,750 unpaid and since Ms. Warner did not have the means to pay it, she was arrested. I believe the charge was “theft of services,” with the hotel being the injured party.
One of the police officers told me that I was too nice to people, too nice to Ms. Warner, and to never do that again. Lesson learned.
The conference was disrupted and ended. The hotel provided a shuttle bus for the attendees to go to the Rosemont Police Department so they could copy driver’s licenses and collect telephone numbers of the attendees. The detective told us that they called the bank in question, and there were NO identity theft issues associated with Ms. Warner’s account. Yeah … she lied to me about being the victim of identity theft.
Problems Problems Problems!!!!!
- The New York Chapter President was stranded in Chicago and not prepared to pay for any hotel rooms (as Ms. Warner told her this expense would be taken care). She spent the night with one of the presenters. GRACIOUSLY, ASD (one of the corporate sponsors for this conference) paid for a few nights at the hotel for this chapter present.
- I believe 17 people registered for the conference. There were national and local corporate sponsors for the conference. WHERE IS THIS MONEY???????????????????????????????????
- Why wasn’t the hotel paid in advance for this conference?
- Some of the conference registrants were able to contact their credit card companies and get the charges temporarily reversed while investigation takes place.
I do not know the specifics of Ms. Warner’s release or who paid what to get her out of jail.
I do not know what will become of Funeral Divas. I wish Funeral Divas well in future endeavors. As an organization, the premise is sound. Intentions at one time were honorable. I do not know what happened or went wrong. I NEVER thought I would witness and experience the events of last week.
I do not know what happened to the monies collected from conference registrations and corporate sponsorships. I believe a complete financial forensic audit of Funeral Divas is appropriate and in order.
Thank you for allowing me an opportunity to share my horrific and humiliating experience.
Monica Vernette Gray
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