December 5, 2020

SPRINGFIELD – A southern Illinois mortuary director has been sentenced to three years in prison for failing to deposit payments on behalf of customers who purchased pre-need funeral services from him, Illinois State Comptroller Susana Mendoza announced. 

Nathan Lee, the former owner of McDaniel-Lee Funeral Home and Cremation Services in Sparta, pleaded guilty in July to two counts of failure to deposit funds, a violation of the Illinois Funeral or Burial Funds Act. His sentence handed down Wednesday includes a $2,000 fine and an order to pay $25,000 in restitution to victims who have not already been helped by the Consumer Protection Fund administered by the Illinois Office of Comptroller. 

About 30 victims and their families attended Wednesday’s sentencing hearing in Randolph County. 

The case stems from an investigation by the Illinois Office of Comptroller, which administers and enforces state laws regarding pre-need funeral purchases and service delivery. Sara Wooley, an attorney with the office, spent an hour on the stand Wednesday testifying on behalf of the victims. 

Mendoza praised her staff, the Sparta Police Department and Randolph County State’s Attorney Jeremy Walker for bringing the investigation to a close on behalf of the consumers who were defrauded by Lee. 

“Fleecing pre-need funeral customers is shameful,” Mendoza said. “Funeral directors who violate the public’s trust must be held accountable. I’m pleased the consumers affected by Lee’s scheme have received justice.”