A crematorium owner in suburban Detroit is facing 10 years in prison for improper body disposal charges.
The Associated Press reported that O’Neill Swanson was produced in Washington County District Court on Tuesday, according to the Michigan Attorney General’s office. In addition to jail time, he also faces a maximum fine of $50,000.
Swanson’s statement on Monday came after Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) issued a cease-and-desist order against tri-county cremation services in June. According to state records, Swanson was listed as an owner.
Officials investigated the company after they received an anonymous complaint of heavy smoke coming from chimneys, bodies being improperly stored awaiting cremation, and bodily fluids leaking onto the facility’s floor.
According to the attorney general’s office, the agency confirmed that all 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 the people who relied on him to care for their deceased loved ones,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said during a press conference. “We are committed to ensuring criminal accountability in this case.”
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
West Bloomfield’s Swanson pleaded no contest to two felonies in 2019. A no-contest plea is not a confession of guilt, but it is treated as a punishment.
His Swanson Funeral Home in Flint was closed in 2017 after maggots were found in a garage where unrefined bodies were being kept. Officials later determined that the prepaid funeral contracts were sold without the proper license.
According to Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, his Morgue Science and Mortuary Science Establishment licenses were revoked, meaning he is ineligible to have a controlling interest in a cemetery or crematorium.
“Mr. Swanson is completely acquitted of the charges. No crime has been committed,” said his lawyer, Clint Cousteau. “The attorney general is coming after him and he didn’t have the exact facts and look at the actual law.”
Kesto also said that the state licensing agency is also “making it a point to go after this man, ruin his reputation and his name, and take his livelihood.”
Swanson was released on a personal bond. The 14th October Probable Cause Conference has been scheduled.