Tuesday, October 28, 2003
Carmel on the Case: Unlicensed Funeral Director Exhibits Crass Behavior
The Nightteam learning the owner of a Miami Funeral Home is facing a criminal charge tonight. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero first exposed claims he held remains hostage for money, in the middle of a funeral! Now Carmel's back "On The Case" with this latest twist.
(WSVN) -- It's clear who is "in charge" at the Poitier Funeral Home in Miami.
Bernard Poitier ofPoitier Funeral Home says "Being the owner here I can run my business in whatever way I see fit to protect my business."
When I questioned Poitier back in February, he admitted he stopped the funeral of Lisa Newkirk because of a money dispute.
Poitier: "I can stop anything around here, and I want you to remember this when you make your report. I'm the owner here.:
He may own the business, but he is not a licensed funeral director, despite the fact on the building and on cash receipts we found Poitier identified as a funeral director.
Poitier: "I don't know nothing about that. I don't think that's the conversation here."
Lisa Newkirk's family says Poitier made all the arrangements for her funeral.
Carmel Cafiero: "He discussed what kind of funeral you were going to have?"
Daughter Tyresha Newkirk: "Yes."
Carmel Cafiero: "He discussed what kind of casket?"
Tyresha Newkirk: "Yes."
Carmel Cafiero: "He discussed prices?"
Tyresha Newkirk: "Right off the top of his head."
Carmel Cafiero: "I thought you had to be a licensed funeral director to deal with the family."
Bernard Poitier: "You flunked the course cause you're thinking. You flunked."
But the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office believes Poitier has "flunked".
It has charged him with "failing" to follow the law by acting as a funeral director even though he has no license.
Two years ago, the state stripped him of his license after he refused to release a body, yelled at the next of kin and threw a state inspector off the property.
"We are extremely careful to protect the public," says Bill Tejeda of the department of business and professional regulation, who investigated the current Poitier case.
Bill Tejeda: "We are more vulnerable when we have a death in the family than in any other time in our lives."
Bernard Poitier did not want to comment on the criminal charge.
He says our earlier report was lies.
Meanwhile, Lisa Newkirk's family is still troubled by the fact Poitier delayed the funeral as they started to leave the church for the cemetery.
Newkirk's sister,Sylvia Simmons says, "Everybody was in tears. I was so emotional, distraught. You know? And my sister - everybody was crying because we couldn't believe this was happening."
Bernard Poitier: "I don't know if was disturbing to them."
Carmel Cafiero: "You don't think people got upset?"
Bernard Poitier: "You don't think I didn't get upset, when I didn't have the check? No - no - let's talk about my feelings as well."
Now Bernard Poitier may get the chance to talk about his feelings-- to a judge. Acting as a funeral director without a license is a misdemeanor, the maximum penalty - 60 days in jail and six months probation.
If you have a story for Carmel, the number to dial is 305-627-CLUE in Dade or 954-921-CLUE in Broward.
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