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Cemetery owner gets four years for mishandling trusts

BOONEVILLE — Cemetery owner Wayne Hight of Booneville has been sentenced to serve four years in prison for failing to properly fund pre-need burial trusts.

Assistant District Attorney Richard Bowen tells The Daily Corinthian reports Hight also was ordered to pay restitution of more than $500,000.

Bowen said Hight, 74, pleaded guilty Friday in Alcorn County Circuit Court to two counts of misapplying or converting pre-need funds at Oaklawn Memorial Park in Alcorn County and two counts of the same charge at Forrest Memorial Park in Prentiss County. Hight owned both cemeteries.

Bowen said about 1,000 individuals could be affected by Hight’s misuse of the funds over the nearly 40 years he has owned the cemeteries.

Bowen said Hight deliberately failed to retain the portions of funds paid for pre-need services in trusts required by state law.

Both cemeteries were taken over last year by the secretary of state’s office and placed into receivership with plans for them to be sold.

Bowen said Hight and his family have also agreed to sign over all of their ownership in the cemeteries to the state-appointed receiver now controlling their operation.

Hight was originally indicted last year on the two counts in Prentiss County in connection with Oaklawn Cemetery. He agreed to enter the pleas in Alcorn County to an information which is a statement of criminal charges agreed to without an indictment from a grand jury and waived his right to have the case presented to a grand jury to determine if an indictment would be issued.

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