PHOENIX (Wednesday, January 4, 2012) -- Attorney General Tom Horne announced the indictment of a retired colonel for allegedly stealing $2 million from a fund to help families of national guardsmen deployed overseas. The defendant, James Eugene Burnes, 66, of Tempe, Arizona, has been indicted by the State Grand Jury on one count of Fraudulent Schemes and Artifices, a class 2 felony; five counts of Theft of an amount over $25,000, class 2 felonies; and two counts of Forgery, class 4 felonies. The state alleges the money was diverted for his personal use. These charges are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. Burnes’ case is set for trial on April 3, 2012.
The State alleges that Burnes, a Resource Manager with the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (DEMA), diverted for his personal use over $2 million in cash from accounts in the name of the Arizona National Guard Family Emergency Fund and the Arizona National Guard Emergency Relief Fund.
“This is a very disturbing alleged abuse of a financial trust,” Horne said. “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 Arizona National Guard Emergency Relief Fund and Arizona National Guard Family Assistance Fund are the Arizona Army National Guard’s emergency financial assistance organizations dedicated to “Helping the Arizona National Guard take care of its own.” Both funds are private non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organizations. Their sole mission is to help service members and their dependents. They provide emergency financial assistance in the form of loans or grants to soldiers and their dependents when there is a valid need. These funds assist needy service members and the families with rent and mortgage payments; food and utilities; essential transportation and vehicle repair; emergency travel expenses; medical expenses; and personal needs when pay is delayed or stolen. The charities were forced to stockpile requests for assistance between August 1, 2011 and December 15, 2011 due to Burnes’ alleged actions. The charities are now back in business offering assistance to service members and their families.
Each class 2 felony count can carry a sentence of 3 – 12 ½ years in prison. Each class 4 felony count can carry a sentence of 1 – 3.75 years in prison.
This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Beverly Rudnick. The case was investigated by investigators with the Arizona Attorney General’s Special Investigation Section.