The former director of the Mississippi Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Newton has been indicted on embezzlement-fraud in public office.
Henry Gruno turned himself in Monday to special agents of the Mississippi State Auditor’s Office at the Newton County Jail. His bond amount will be set by the court. He was also presented a $29,818.76 demand letter upon arrest. This amount includes interest and investigative expenses.
Gruno is accused of using a credit card and a fuel card to embezzle public money from Mississippi Veterans Affairs. He allegedly used an MSVA credit card to purchase things like barbecue supplies, toys, and luggage. He also purportedly used a fuel card to make purchases far from the cemetery and on days when grounds equipment was not operated. Investigators identified a total of about $14,000 as embezzled from January 2016 to January 2019.
The State Auditor’s office began an investigation when staff at Mississippi Veterans Affairs began to suspect embezzlement and submitted a complaint.
“I’m glad we were able to hold this individual accountable for his theft from Mississippi’s taxpayers and Veterans,” said State Auditor Shad White. “As the grandson of two veterans, this one hit close to home. I’m also thankful for Director (Stacey) Pickering bringing this matter to our attention.”
“I want to thank Auditor White for his tireless efforts on behalf of the Veterans,” said Pickering, who is the Mississippi Veterans Affairs executive director. “We are grateful that his office has helped make sure taxpayer money is spent on our Veterans and is not stolen. We have no stronger advocate for Veterans in our state than Shad White.”
If convicted, Gruno faces up to 10 years in prison and $5,000 in fines. All persons arrested by the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. The case will be prosecuted by the office of Eighth District Attorney Steven Kilgore.
No surety bond covers Gruno’s employment as a cemetery director for Mississippi Veterans Affairs. Surety bonds are similar to insurance designed to protect taxpayers from corruption. Gruno will remain liable for the full amount of the demand in addition to criminal proceedings.