A D.C. woman who says she was supposed to bury her mother Wednesday is caught in the middle of a legal dispute between D.C. prosecutors and a local funeral home accused of taking money from grieving families.
Dianne Bond, a loving grandmother and supportive mother, died two weeks ago at age 67 after a four-year battle with cancer.
“She taught me everything,” said her daughter Lavon Bond. “She taught me how to cook, clean, wash.”
She called Jamiel Royster, who is the chief operating officer for the Austin Royster Funeral Home in the 500 block of Kennedy Street NW. Royster was taking care of the funeral arraignments, Bond said, and she received a receipt showing she paid more than $2,000 out of pocket.
But the Attorney General’s Office for the District of Columbia was preparing a lawsuit against the business, saying the funeral home was operating without a business license for almost two years and the funeral director’s license was suspended in June because he was allowing Royster to act as the director even though she wasn’t licensed. The suit also says the funeral home withheld thousands of dollars from clients. The lawsuit alleges the funeral home accepted an insurance payment of $53,000 for services that cost $5,767 and did not return the rest of the money to the consumer.
The Office of the Attorney General said it seized the remains of more than 100 people after filing the lawsuit and motion for a temporary restraining order. The remains were moved to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
Bond is fighting to get her money back so she can afford a ceremony so her family can properly say goodbye.
“I’m lost in the sauce,” she said. “I really don’t know where to start.”
The funeral home did not return requests for comment.