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A grave mistake - Stranger buried in Suffolk man's family plot exposes lack of burial society regulation

The Department of State tells Team 12 Investigates that they investigated the complaint, but because the plot was sold by a third-party, it is out of their jurisdiction.

Rachel Yonkunas

May 13, 2024, 9:40 PM

Updated 40 days ago


A Long Island man wanted his family to have their final resting place together, but someone else is now buried in a grave that he bought years ago.
Feruze Khan bought three cemetery plots at Washington Memorial Park Cemetery in Mt. Sinai shortly before his dad died in 2020. He has the contracts to prove it and all three cemetery plots are next to each other.
When he visited his dad’s grave earlier this year, he made a surprising discovery. Khan found a stranger had been recently buried next to his dad—in the grave intended for his mother.
“This is something very devastating and unbelievable,” Khan said. “How can anyone make a mistake like that? They’re not taking any actions so I had to take action myself by reaching out to you guys.”
Khan bought the graves in 2019 from the Jalalabad Association of America—not the cemetery. Like many third-party burial societies, the organization buys plots from cemeteries and resells them to individuals, usually at a lower price. Burial societies are only allowed to sell plots to their members, but Khan said he has no affiliation with the organization.
The Jalalabad Association of America own dozens of plots in the Muslim Garden at Washington Memorial Park Cemetery. They told Team 12 Investigates that the mix-up happened during a change in leadership. A representative from the group said they offered Khan two other graves, but they are not next to his father.
“This was a mistake, people make mistakes,” said a representative from the Jalalabad Association of America. “It’s nothing else. There’s no business issues. We’ll both try to solve this out and it will be done soon.”
Representatives from Washington Memorial Park Cemetery said there is nothing they can do. Khan wishes they had protections in place to prevent this type of grave mistake.
“Besides the organization making that mistake, Washington Memorial should have had something in place as well,” Khan said.
The Department of State tells Team 12 Investigates that they investigated the complaint, but because the plot was sold by a third-party, it is out of their jurisdiction.
“Once a cemetery has sold a lot, it generally does not track which graves a lot owner has reserved for individuals,” a department spokesperson said. “In the rare event that graves are designated for multiple individuals, the burial society is responsible for resolution. A cemetery’s involvement would be limited to performing a disinterment at the direction of the burial society and family or per court order and/or an interment in another grave.”
Team 12 Investigates found there is no agency that regulates burial societies. Since they are still considered the lot owners, even after selling grave plots, they can put in writing whose remains will be placed in a grave. For this to be effective, the Division of Cemeteries said lot owners should clearly communicate that and file it with the cemetery.
Meanwhile, Khan is facing an eternal conflict. He said he cannot afford a disinterment, but he does not want his father to be buried with strangers.
“I just need the universe and the world to help me rectify this situation,” Khan said.
If you believe you were a victim of unfair or illegal practices, you can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office.

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