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Dept. of Health orders $60,000 penalty on Almlie

Former area funeral home director misappropriated burial funds more than five years ago

A former area funeral home director is being penalized by the Minnesota Department of Health for misappropriating more than $79,000 that was pre-paid for burials.

In an order effective Jan. 27, the Department of Health said it was revoking Steven J. Almlie’s mortician license and requiring Almlie to pay a $60,000 civil penalty.

Almlie admitted to the violations, according to a stipulation and consent order released by the Department of Health.

Almlie was the former owner of Almlie Funeral Homes, which had locations in Tracy, Balaton and Westbrook. Almlie operated the funeral home from 1995 to 2014, when he sold the business to Horvath Funeral Service.

On Wednesday, the Independent reached out to Horvath Funeral Service owner Quinn Horvath for a comment on what he knew about the misappropriation of funds by Almlie.

“I purchased the former Almlie Funeral Homes in May of 2014. At that time I had no knowledge of any misappropriated or mishandled funds as outlined in the disciplinary action,” Horvath said. “The events causing the disciplinary action to Steve Almlie took place prior to my purchase of and involvement with the firm.”

Horvath said he has worked in “full cooperation” with state regulators to make sure that all pre-paid burial funds were correctly invested under Minnesota laws.

“At this time, I have no knowledge of any pre-paid customers whose funds are not correctly invested as per Minnesota laws,” Horvath said.

In 2015, the state Department of Health received a complaint alleging that Almlie had used pre-paid burial funds from multiple individuals for himself. Under Minnesota law, pre-paid burial funds must be kept in a trust until the time of a person’s death. Funeral providers are also required to submit annual reports on those funds to the state.

The Department of Health started investigating the complaint against Almlie in 2016, according to the stipulation and consent order. The investigation found 14 accounts where Almlie had received pre-payment for burial, but did not put the money into trust accounts, submit documents to an insurance company, or submit annual reports on the funds. The total amount of the payments came to $79,521.87, the Department of Health said.

The Department of Health also said the investigation found Almlie had received money for the sale of burial goods but did not complete the contracted work. Almlie entered into an agreement in late 2014 to reimburse the misappropriated money and to reimburse the funeral home’s new owners for the cost of the incomplete contracted work.

In May 2019, the Department of Health issued an administrative penalty order to Almlie, and ordered him to pay a penalty of $140,000. Almlie later requested a hearing. However, the stipulation and consent order said Almlie and the Department of Health then agreed to resolve the matter without a hearing.

As part of the order, Almlie’s request for a contested case would be withdrawn, but his mortician license would be revoked and not reinstated. The $140,000 civil penalty for Almlie would also be reduced to $60,000. The order said Almlie will have to pay $250 a month, starting Feb. 15, until the penalty is paid in full.

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