Grand Rapids Funeral home fined by LARA for moving body without family permission


A funeral home is being disciplined by state regulators months after a family complained about a discrepancy over forged signatures and the movement of a body without the family’s permission.

Arsulowicz Brothers Mortuary has accepted fine issued in October for $5,000 by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), which cited incompetence and negligence with how the funeral home dealt with a family.

Cathy Azzarello contacted the I-Team after her sister, Benita Azzarello, died in California in 2016.

Azzarello wished for her sister to be laid to rest with other family members in Grand Rapids, and began looking at multiple funeral homes, first calling Arsulowicz Brothers Mortuary, but Azzarello said her son made it clear the family was looking at all options.

“We explained to him that this was our first call,” said Azzarello in a Skype interview with Newschannel 3. “We wanted basic ideas as to what it would cost to do this.”

In the end, the Azzarello said she ended up going with a different funeral home, but when that funeral home tried to transport her sister’s body from a California hospital, the body was already gone.

“I get a call, after I get home, horrified that her body was missing,” she said. “I get this call finally from San Jose, somebody saying they had her body there.”

The Newschannel 3 I-Team obtained an Authorization for Release of Human Remains form, and saw what appeared to be a signature of someone claiming to be the nephew of Azzarello.

Cathleen said someone at Arsulowicz Brothers Mortuary signed her son’s name on the form, without her permission.

Stephen Arsulowicz, a director at the funeral home, acknowledged that he did have someone at the mortuary sign the release form as the “nephew” Azzarello, without the family’s permission or knowledge.

“I thought I was being efficient for the family,” he said.

He claimed he thought the family was certain it was going to choose Arsulowicz Brothers Mortuary service.

“I wasn’t trying to jump the gun, but I can see someone else’s point of view, feeling that way,” he added.

Arsulowicz said he apologizes to the Azzarello family, adding that he never charged them, and saying he helped get the body back to the family’s funeral home of choice.

The Azzarellos, however, said another funeral home in California, Moores Mission, helped them retrieve the body.

Gary Moore, director of the California funeral home, said what Arsulowicz did with the signature was not in line with funeral home ethics.

“It’s totally illegal,” Moore said. “What he did was wrong, he’d lose his license here in California.”

LARA fined Arsulowicz Brothers Mortuary in October for $5,000, while also noting that the funeral home had no prior records of discipline before this incident.

“Stephen Arsulowicz believed at that time that the family intended to have the funeral services performed at his establishment,” read the report, in part, “Respondent was cooperative and wishes to resolve this matter without the needed for and expense of an administrative hearing.”

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