By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal
CORINTH – About 100 people brought their concerns about prepaid funeral and burial services to a meeting in Corinth with the secretary of state Tuesday night.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and his staff came with some detail about the status of Forrest Memorial Park in Corinth and Oaklawn Memorial Park in Booneville that eased some minds but left open questions.
“Can people that illegally spent our money be arrested and prosecuted?” one disgruntled cemetery lot purchaser asked.
Although the secretary of state doesn’t have that authority, Hosemann said all records of their investigation will be open to the attorney general and local prosecutor who can pursue that possibility.
However, the secretary of state has filed a legal action to place the properties in receivership so that the two cemeteries can be returned to proper management.
On Aug. 30, the secretary of state’s office ordered the cemeteries, owned by Wayne Hight of Corinth, to quit selling pre-need services after an audit revealed that at least $100,000 was missing from trust accounts for prepaid burial services.
“Mr. Hight met voluntarily with the secretary of state’s office on two different occasions,” Hosemann said. Hight told SOS staff that about $75,000 in the trust account for Forrest Memorial Park when he bought it in 1975, along with any trust funds that should have accumulated over the years had been expended.
Grave spaces or interment rights that people have purchased are not at risk, Hoseman said. However, money spent to prepay vaults, markers and grave opening and closing services might be lost. The SOS will continue working to determine the extent of losses.
At a hearing set for Oct. 17 in Fulton, Hight could show that he has voluntarily put money back to properly fund the accounts to stave off the receivership action, Hosemann said.
While secretary of state staff continue to review several hundred contract files for the two cemeteries, they also are searching for any other assets owned by Hight to put money back into the trust accounts.
If desired, owners may send a copy of contracts for burial services to the secretary of state’s office at either of two addresses:
• Tupelo: Secretary of State’s Office, P.O. Box 7067, Tupelo, MS 38802
• Jackson: David Scott, Secretary of State’s Office, P.O. Box 136, Jackson, MS 39205
• Questions: (601) 359-9055