Attorney says revelation of second body at the Tomaszewski Funeral Home was done ‘in good faith’
The attorney for embattled former funeral director Michael Tomaszewski said the new revelation that a second body had been found at his funeral home in Batavia was “done in good faith” and that nothing “nefarious” was going on.
Genesee County sheriff’s investigators on Friday confirmed that a body was being stored at Michael S. Tomaszewski Funeral Home. Tomaszewski already faces charges related to another body that had been stored on site, that of a veteran who died in 2018.
Tomaszewski is charged with filing false documents stating that the body had been properly buried and charged under public health laws with failure to bury or incinerate a body. He has not been charged in relation to the second body found in storage in a garage at the West Main Street Road funeral home.
The discovery of the new body has raised concerns that Tomaszewski is continuing to hide illegal activities at his funeral home, despite being on the verge of accepting a plea deal in a massive fraud investigation against him. That is not the case, his attorney, Thomas Burns said Monday morning.
Tomaszewski and Burns had a virtual appearance in Genesee County Court Tuesday.
“We were at the appearance and we expected to take a plea,” Burns said. “I knew that we could not go forward with the plea and I did not want to misrepresent where things stand.”
Burns informed Judge Charles Zambito and prosecutor Kaitlynn Schmit that a body was being stored in a casket in refrigeration at the funeral home. The case was adjourned until April 13, when Tomaszewski is expected to plead.
Burns explained why he revealed that now and the circumstances that led to the revelation. The deceased, Burns said, died in 2019 at Le Roy Village Green Nursing Home. The man, a person who worked in the federal hospital system, had no next of kin and Tomaszewski offered to store the body until a decision was made on when and where to properly dispose of the remains.
Eventually, Burns said, it was decided that the man would be buried in Wisconsin and plans were being made to transport the body but then “COVID came and stalled everything.” Local attorneys, one for probate and the other representing the state, were overseeing the process, Burns said.
Then, Tomaszewski was arrested, in July, and has more than 200 charges against him. He is accused of stealing more than $500,000 from clients by failing to provide services he was paid for and failing to deposit money into client accounts, as required by law, for prepaid funerals.
Burns said he has known for a few months that a second body was stored at the funeral home. So why not reveal that to authorities earlier?
“That’s a tough question,” Burns said. “We were optimistic that another funeral director would accept the remains and that the attorneys would be able to take care of this. It was “Let’s see if we can get the people in charge to take care of this and make a decision.’
“When it was clear no one was going to step up, now I’m in a pickle.” The body was properly stored and the remains are intact, he said. Burns said he understands the public’s outcry and concern regarding Tomaszewski’s activities.
“It’s unfortunate but nothing nefarious is going on,” he said. “It was an attempt to do the right thing.” Burns said he is doubtful that Tomaszewski will face any new charges related to the second body. Sheriff’s officials would only say that the discovery is being investigated.
As for questions about why the Sheriff’s Department failed to find that body, especially when a body was found at the funeral home in 2019? One, it is unrelated to the financial investigation into Tomaszewski. Investigators had a search warrant for the funeral home and Tomaszewski’s private home and were looking for records, not bodies.
Burns said he also can assure the public and families who have dealt with Tomaszewski that while he “has screwed up in so many bad ways,” Tomaszewski has not misplaced bodies or “buried them on top of each other” or resold caskets.
“I understand why people wouldn’t give him the benefit of the doubt,” he said. Sheriff’s investigators have never found evidence of any other illegal burial methods or thefts on Tomaszewski’s part.