MEDIA COURTHOUSE – An Upper Darby grave marker and engraving company that has twice been sued by the state for violations of consumer protection laws is allegedly continuing to engage in fraudulent business practices under a new name, according to a motion for preliminary injunction filed by Deputy Attorney General Debra Djupman Warring last month.
“Gregory Stefan, Sr., and his family may have changed the name of their company, but they are still taking advantage of consumers in their time of grief,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement. “My office filed a second lawsuit in August 2021 that asks the court to close the Stefan family down for good. As that litigation continues, this latest filing seeks to prevent the defendants from engaging with Pennsylvania consumers and selling services related to headstones and memorials. ”
Deputy Attorney General Thomas J. Blessington filed the original complaint in 2015 alleging “Lifestone by Stefan,” “Stefan Memorials” and Stefan, Sr. failed to deliver services consumers contracted for, or provided items of lesser quality than advertised when delivered. The company also denied or delayed providing refunds to unhappy consumers, and falsely told some people that they were affiliated with the cemeteries where their loved ones were being buried when that was not the case, according to the prior complaint.
Shapiro – a Democratic contender in the 2022 gubernatorial election – previously said his office secured a $ 300,000 judgment against Lifestone and an injunction against Stefan, Sr. that prevents him from owning, managing, or having any significant involvement in any business that provides or engraves headstones for consumers.
Between the original complaint being filed and that injunction, however, Shapiro said Stefan and his sons, Gregory J. Stefan, Jr., and Gerard Stefan, established a new business called “1843 LLC,” which has allegedly engaged in similar business practices.
Some other names the company goes by include Colonial Memorials, Stefan Memorial Group, The Memorial Company, Gallagher Memorials, Alessi Memorials, 1843 Memonals / Canledge and 1843 New Britain / Quakertown Memorials, according to Blessington.
He filed the second suit in August 2021 after allegedly receiving more than 100 consumer complaints that the various companies continue to take money up-front from grieving survivors without providing contracted services.
Warring’s proposed preliminary injunction, filed April 28, claims the defendants are still operating under the “Colonial Memorials” moniker and continuing to engage in the same deceptive business practices that landed them in court to begin with.
“Notwithstanding the Lifestone litigation, the Stefans did not modify their practices to deal honestly and fairly with consumers; rather, they simply transitioned their operations from a company in litigation to a newly formed business, ”the motion says.
Warring notes that the 2015 litigation was resolved in 2018 via a consent judgment and order that required payment of consumer restitution, civil penalties and costs, but the defendants failed to honor that judgment, leading to a contempt petition.
The contempt issue was resolved in 2020 through a stipulated order in which the defendants agreed to stop selling cemetery memorial products in Pennsylvania, according to the motion, but nearly four years after the entry of judgment for the original litigation, Lifestone has still not satisfied the restitution owed to consumers.
Warring says Colonial is a Delaware for-profit corporation founded in February 2021 that registered to do business in Pennsylvania in April 2021. A letter from attorney Christian J. Hoey, representing the Lifestone defendants, claims Colonial was formed to “provide assistance to 1843 to eliminate its backlog of orders sold to customers, ”and that neither Gregory Stefan, Jr., nor Gerald Stefan have any control over the company’s cash or finances, according to the motion.
“However, the owner of Colonial is Suzanne Stefan, the wife of Gregory Stefan, Jr.,” the motion says. “Gregory Stefan, Jr. and Gerald Stefan sell cemetery memorial products for Colonial, and fees for their work are paid to 1843 LLC by Colonial. ”
Warring says her office has received multiple complaints regarding Colonial similar to those that consumers have lodged against the other Lifestone companies. She provided four examples of consumers who said they paid Colonial thousands of dollars for markers that have not yet been placed. One, an 80-year-old man from Langhorne, does not have the funds for a replacement marker for his deceased wife, according to motion. Others said their calls and emails to Colonial were met with silence or, in one instance, a statement that the company is short staffed and doing the best it can.
“The consumer complaints against Colonial demonstrate that the wrongful conduct of the commonwealth has alleged against defendants in the 1843 litigation is now continuing with 1843, Gregory Stefan, Jr., and Gerard Stefan providing services to the Colonial,” the motion says. “… The commonwealth submits that the Stefans are simply continuing their pattern of moving operations from one company embroiled in litigation over to a new business.”
Warring argues that the motion should be granted to prevent any additional alleged harm to the public, and because it is narrowly tailored to allow 1843 to continue delivering products already contracted for while constraining the defendants from taking on any new business.
A trial in the 1843 litigation has been scheduled for later this year during a four-week trial pool beginning Nov. 3, according to the motion. Shapiro is meanwhile urging anyone who may have been harmed by 1843 LLC or its associated entities to contact his office by calling 1-800-441-2555 or online at attorneygeneral.gov/submit-a-complaint.