MODESTO — Tom Budhi got in touch with Shaun McGuire after doctors told him his wife's lung cancer was terminal in January. McGuire, who owns McGuire Cremation & Funeral Service in Modesto, is under investigation after authorities suspended his burial permits amid concerns over his business practices.
Budhi says he planned the service he wanted to have for his wife when she dies, and gave McGuire $1,000 toward the $1,700 cost. Now Budhi can't reach McGuire, and he says he is wondering what happened to his money.
"I originally went down March 29 and tried to give him my debit card," Budhi said. McGuire, he said, told Budhi he was having problems with his credit card machine and asked for a check. Budhi returned about 3:30 p.m. April 1 with the check; by the morning of April 2, McGuire had cashed it, he said.
Funeral homes aren't supposed to take money in advance for funerals. Generally, the money is placed in a trust, or a life insurance policy is taken out with the funeral home as a beneficiary so cash is not available until the individual dies.
Nobody other than Budhi has come forward claiming to have paid McGuire in advance for services, said Stanislaus County deputy coroner Tom Killian. McGuire has not responded to repeated requests for comment.
In May, deputies removed 17 bodies from McGuire's Seventh Street business after complaints from families that were having trouble getting loved ones' remains returned. Several families filed complaints with the state Cemetery and Funeral Board.
Officials there said they can't comment on ongoing investigations. As of Tuesday afternoon, McGuire's license remained "clear," with no disciplinary actions taken against him. His license expires June 30.
The business appears to be gone from the Seventh Street building, which now houses Thrift Emporium. An employee at the business said nobody from the funeral home had been around in several weeks.
Locally, the coroner's office completed its investigation and forwarded a hefty report to the Stanislaus County district attorney's office, Killian said. No charges have yet been filed; Assistant District Attorney Carol Shipley said Tuesday the report is under review.
Budhi said he is sending copies of his contract and paperwork to the state board.
In the meantime, he has little recourse. Killian said that so far, McGuire hasn't breached his contract with Budhi because he hasn't failed to provide the service when it's needed. But even should that happen, Budhi's options are limited to filing a civil complaint against McGuire.
While he waits to find out what happens to McGuire, Budhi has turned to Eaton Family Funeral Home, which has helped other alleged victims in the case, for help. He said he last heard from McGuire a couple of weeks after signing the contract and giving him the money.
"He called me up and asked, 'Are you ready for us yet?' " Budhi said. That struck Budhi as strange, and he said he figured McGuire must need the money.
Budhi is pretty sure he's out the $1,000.
"Quite frankly, I don't expect to get the funds back," he said. "But I want something done with this guy... the trauma he put us through, this guy needs to pay the price."
Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter, @pattyguerra.