Crematorium Owner Faces 10 Years for Improper Body Storage Charges, License Revoked

A crematorium owner in suburban Detroit is facing 10 years in prison for improper body disposal charges.

According to the Michigan Attorney General's office on Tuesday, O'Neil Swanson was arraigned in Washtenaw County district court, the Associated Press reported. In addition to jail time, he also faces a maximum fine of $50,000.

Swanson's arraignment on Monday comes after the Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) issued a cease and desist order in June against Tri-County Cremation Services. Swanson was listed as an owner, according to state records.

Authorities investigated the company after they received an anonymous complaint of heavy smoke coming from the chimney, bodies stored improperly while awaiting cremation, and bodily fluids leaking onto the facility floor.

According to the Attorney General's office, the agency confirmed that all of the bodies were either cremated or removed from the building on June 24.

"The allegations against Mr. Swanson are incredibly disturbing, and my heart breaks for those who trusted him to care for their deceased loved ones," Attorney General Dana Nessel said during a press conference. "We are committed to ensuring there is criminal accountability in this case."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

A Detroit crematorium owner faces 10 years in prison and a large fine for improper body storage charges. Above, Maryland Cremation Services transporter Reggie Elliott brings the remains of a Covid-19 victim to his van from the hospital's morgue in Baltimore, Maryland on December 24, 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

Swanson, of West Bloomfield, pleaded no contest to two felonies in 2019. A no-contest plea isn't an admission of guilt but is treated as such at sentencing.

His Swanson Funeral Home in Flint was closed in 2017 after maggots were found in a garage where unrefrigerated bodies were being stored. Officials later determined prepaid funeral contracts were sold without a proper license.

His mortuary science and mortuary science establishment licenses were revoked, meaning he is ineligible to hold a controlling interest in a cemetery or crematory, according to Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

"Mr. Swanson is completely innocent of the charge. No crime has been committed," said Klint Kesto, his attorney. "The attorney general is coming after him and they didn't have the accurate facts and look at the actual law."

Kesto also said the state licensing agency also is "making a point to go after this guy, ruin his reputation and his name, and take his livelihood."

Swanson was released on a personal bond. An October 14 probable cause conference has been scheduled.