Hattiesburg restaurant open after owner charged with grand larceny

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - A Hattiesburg restaurant is open for business after the owner was arrested in May for allegedly stealing more than $100,000 worth of food from a National Guard youth program.

Jerry's Seasoned Food's owner Jerry L. Howard said Friday that he never closed shop after being arrested, rather he just "took a few days off."

The restaurant, on the corners of Bouie and 8th in Hattiesburg, had three customers Friday afternoon. Howard said business was "okay" after the incident with Camp Shelby.

Howard, 50, was an employee with Camp Shelby for 17 years, most recently serving as the dining facility manager for the Youth Challenge Program. When Camp Shelby employees realized that food being ordered for the program was not being served, the state auditor's office was contacted, and the investigation began.

"We are not sure when it started," said Maj. Gen. Augustus L. Collins. "Their investigators worked with military auditors, which resulted in the arrest of the dining facility manager."

State Auditor Stacey Pickering said last month that large quantities of invoiced food never appeared on the menu, and that end-of year-totals increased from $216,000 in 2009 to $306,000 in previous fiscal year, while the number of people eating remained the same.

Pickering's spokesperson, Brett Kittredge, said that the auditor's office is not involved with how Howard operates his business now, but they will provide information necessary for the district attorney's prosecution.

"What else he's doing with the other food now, we don't really have control over," said Kittredge on Friday. "We confiscated what we could tell had the labels from the youth challenge program on it."

Forrest County district attorney Patricia Burchell was unavailable for immediate comment, but she said in May that her office "expects full prosecution."