office manager of moberly, missouri, funeral home indicted on fraud charges
St. Louis, MO – BEVERLY SUSAN RENE SMITH was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges involving her alleged theft of approximately $176,000 from Million-Taylor Funeral Home. These funds were intended to cover customer’s funeral expenses.
According to the indictment, Smith was hired by the original owner of the Million-Taylor Funeral Home (MTFH) in Moberly. James Taylor, Sr. hired Smith in 2001 as the office manager, a job she held from 2001 to June 2012. Her position included payroll expenses and expenses to vendors for the costs of funerals. She also received payment for funerals, which she recorded 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 to cover these expenses. 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 she was able to conceal that she had stolen some client payments made for funeral expenses, which she deposited into the escrow account.
While James Taylor, Sr. operated MTHF, he allowed customers to pay money for their expected funeral expenses before they died. MTHF deposited this money into MTHF’s escrow account. He and Smith were the only employees who had access to the escrow account. The indictment alleges that after James Taylor, Sr. died in 2006, Smith concealed the existence of the escrow account from other MTHF employees. On several occasions 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, Higbee, Missouri, was indicted by a federal grand jury on one felony count of wire fraud last Thursday, March 27. She appeared earlier today in federal court in St. Louis.
Additionally, upon a finding of guilt, 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. In determining the actual sentence, a Judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Assistant United States Attorney Anthony Franks is handling the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
As is always the case, charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations and do not constitute proof of guilt. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.