Money was collected from insurance companies to pay for funerals that never happened

The excerpted article was written by Darren Bernhardt · CBC News 

A former funeral director pleaded guilty in a Winnipeg court Tuesday to 13 counts of faking death certificates to receive payouts from insurance companies.

Mike Knysh, who once owned and operated Knysh Funeral Chapel in Winnipeg and Beausejour, was set to go to trial in April on 24 counts in total — 11 for fraud and 13 for forgery.

Instead, his lawyer, Frank Coniglio, and Crown prosecutor Mandy Ambrose reached an agreement that saw the 11 fraud charges dropped in exchange for Knysh’s guilty plea in Court of Queen’s Bench to the 13 forgeries.

The victims had purchased prearranged funeral plans from Knysh, police said in April 2018, when the charges were laid.

The 13 counts represent 13 separate people for whom funeral director’s statement-of-death certificates were filed with insurance companies, even though all were alive at the time, court heard.

Knysh then received money from the insurance companies to pay for funerals that never happened. A total of $83,000 was claimed from the insurance policies, police said.

The incidents happened between 2004 and 2014.

As the court clerk read out each charge individually Tuesday, Knysh quietly pleaded guilty. He then responded with a muted “yes” when the clerk clarified each time that he said “guilty.”

Justice Chris Martin followed up by asking if Knysh realized his guilty pleas mean he will have a criminal record.

“Yes,” Knysh said.

Sentencing is set for April 14.

Outside the courtroom, Coniglio called the plea deal “an acceptable resolution,” noting there were a number of charges the defence did not believe were valid.

By avoiding trial, many witnesses — including several who are elderly — will not need to attend court, Coniglio added.

“We didn’t want any of them to have to go through that experience if it wasn’t absolutely necessary,” he said.

Coniglio hopes that will be considered as a mitigating circumstance by the judge during sentencing.

He added there are other such circumstances that will be presented at that hearing to show the crime “is not exactly what it might look like on the face of it.”

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