A 66-year-old retired colonel and Tempe resident — accused of stealing more than $2 million from a fund to help families of National Guardsmen and using it for personal purposes — was indicted by a state grand jury on offenses connected to the alleged crimes.
James Eugene Burnes was indicted on one count of fraudulent schemes and artifices, five counts of theft and two counts of forgery, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne’s Office announced on Wednesday.
The state alleges that Burnes, a resource manager with the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (DEMA), diverted cash between 2007 and 2011 for his personal use from accounts in the name of the Arizona National Guard Family Emergency Fund and the Arizona National Guard Emergency Relief Fund.
The Emergency Relief and Family Assistance funds are Arizona Army National Guard emergency financial assistance organizations dedicated to helping the service members and their families.
Funding is awarded in the form of loans or grants to soldiers and their dependents when a need is established, such as to help with rent and mortgage payments, food and utilities, transportation and vehicle repair, emergency travel expenses, medical expenses and personal needs when pay is delayed or stolen.
“This is a very disturbing alleged abuse of a financial trust,” Horne said in a statement. “This money was meant to assist needy service men and women and their families. My office will pursue this case vigorously to ensure that justice is served.”
The charities were forced to stockpile requests for assistance between Aug. 1, 2011 and Dec. 15 because of Burnes’ alleged actions. The charities are now back in business offering assistance to service members and their families, according to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.
A trial for Burnes is scheduled to begin on April 3.