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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Missouri

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Office Manager Of Moberly, Missouri Funeral Home Sentenced On Fraud Charges

St. Louis, MO – BEVERLY SUSAN RENE SMITH was sentenced to six months of home confinement and five years of probation on charges involving her theft of approximately $176,000 from Million-Taylor Funeral Home.  These funds were intended to cover customer’s funeral expenses. She was also ordered to pay restitution of $175,705.

According to court documents, 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.  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, MO, pled guilty in May to one felony count of wire fraud, and appeared in St. Louis today for sentencing before United States District Judge Rodney Sippel.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.  Assistant United States Attorney Anthony Franks handled the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Updated March 19, 2015