By Lena Mitchell/ Daily Journal Corinth Bureau
CORINTH – Wayne Hight was sentenced Friday after pleading guilty to four counts of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars in pre-need burial funds from two cemeteries he owned in Prentiss and Alcorn counties.
A filled courtroom witnessed Hight, 74, being taken in custody by the sheriff’s office to await transport to the Mississippi Department of Corrections after Judge Paul Funderburk imposed a punishment that in large part complied with recommendations of the district attorney’s office.
He was sentenced to serve four years of a 20-year sentence.
For the two counts related to Oaklawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Booneville, Hight was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with six years suspended and four to serve.
A similar sentence on the second count is to be served concurrently.
For two counts related to Forrest Memorial Park in Corinth, Hight was sentenced to 10 years in prison on the first count, with six years suspended and four to serve.
On the second Alcorn County count, Hight was sentenced to 10 years in prison to be served consecutive to the previous sentences, with all 10 years suspended.
Hight also will serve five years under post-release supervision, pay a $1,000 fine and court costs on each count, $800 to the crime victims fund on each count, as well as a district attorney’s fee of $200 on each count.
Restitution of $569,589 was imposed on behalf of the victims, to be satisfied to the extent possible by Hight’s and his family’s surrender of all rights to both properties to the state.
The restitution is allocated as follows: $19,924 to Oaklawn Perpetual Care Trust Fund; $76,744 to Oaklawn Pre-need Trust Fund; $167,760 to Forrest Memorial Perpetual Care Trust Fund; and $305,761 to Forrest Memorial Pre-need Trust Fund.
Hight has been out on bond since being indicted in November on the two Prentiss County charges.
He waived grand jury indictment on the Alcorn County charges and they were included in disposition of the case.
The secretary of state’s office ordered Hight to stop selling pre-need services in August 2011 after investigating shortfalls in pre-need trust accounts at Oaklawn and Forrest Memorial cemeteries.
The cemeteries were placed in receivership with the secretary of state’s office in November 2011 and have been administered by Corinth Municipal Judge John Ross, who will continue in that capacity.
The secretary of state also asked the Prentiss County Chancery Court for permission to place the cemeteries up for sale by bid at public auction.