Hearings Set for Woman Accused of Bilking Funeral Expenses

3 years 8 months 1 week ago Wednesday, April 02 2014 Apr 2, 2014 Wednesday, April 02, 2014 1:00:00 PM CDT April 02, 2014 in News
By: Nicole Neidenberg, KOMU 8 Digital Producer

MOBERLY - A Higbee woman facing a federal grand jury on charges for stealing nearly $176,000 from Million-Taylor Funeral Home (MTFH) has a hearing set for April 30, 2014. Forty-year-old Beverly Susan Rene Smith was hired in 2001 as the office manager for the Moberly funeral home by its original owner, James Taylor, Sr.

Smith held that position from 2001 to June 2012.

Smith's duties included payroll expenses and expenses to vendors for the costs of funerals. She also received payment for funerals and recorded them in a financial ledger.

Additionally, she was required to report all of MTHF's financial transactions to their accounting firm, Federated Funeral Directors of America (Federated). Smith also had access to MTHF's banking, general fund and escrow accounts.

To pay for funeral expenses of a client, MTHF first used money from its general operating fund. Then Smith was supposed to recoup payment for the funeral expenses from the representatives or family members of the deceased, from the life insurance of the deceased, and/or from pre-needs insurance accounts of the deceased.

When the payments were received, Smith was to deposit them back into the general fund. If she was not able to recoup full payment for funeral expenses of a client, she reported this information to Federated and informed them that the account was a bad account and that they should write it off as no further effort would be made to recoup payment for these expenses.

This way Smith was able to conceal she had stolen some client payments made for funeral expenses and she deposited them into the escrow account.

According to the indictment, when the original owner of MTHF died in 2006, Smith concealed the existence of the escrow account from other MTHF employees. Smith took the payments that were sent to MTHF for funerals, and instead of depositing them into the general fund, she deposited the funds into the escrow account.

Smith was able to withdraw funds from the escrow account undetected to use for her personal use, including the purchase of clothing and jewelry. She hid the withdrawals by manipulating the financial records of MTHF.

Smith was indicted by a federal grand jury on one felony count of wire fraud Thursday, March 27th. She appeared in federal court in St. Louis on Tuesday, April 2 and was found guilty. 

Smith will be subject to a forfeiture allegation, which will require the forfeiture of all money and property derived from the illegal activity.

If convicted, this charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Missouri State Highway Patrol investigated the case. Assistant United States Attorney Anthony Franks is handling the case for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

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