Retired Colonel James Burnes Pleads Guilty to Charges in $2 Million Military Charity Theft

Retired Colonel James Burnes pleaded guilty today to two felonies related to thefts totaling $2 million -- from charities. Military charities.

According to a court spokesperson, Burnes entered a guilty plea for two of the initial eight charges for stealing the money that was supposed to go to military families.

Instead, Burnes apparently thought a better use of the funds would be for his gambling habits.

Burnes was working as a resource manager with the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs when he began diverting funds from two Arizona National Guard Charities, according to the Attorney General's Office.

Attorney General Tom Horne said the purpose of the funds Burnes was stealing from -- the Arizona National Guard Family Emergency Fund and the Arizona National Guard Emergency Relief Fund -- was stealing from was to "assist needy service men and women and their families."

More specifically, the AG's office says the funds used to "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."

Both funds are private, nonprofit charitable organizations.

The discovery of the missing cash forced the funds do delay requests by soldiers' families for more than four months, but they're both up-and-running now.

The AG's office said Burnes was stealing several thousand dollars a week for gambling over a period of four years, starting in 2007.

Burnes, a 66-year-old Tempe resident, is scheduled to be sentenced on March 28.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley