A Higbee woman was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges for stealing nearly $176,000 from Million-Taylor Funeral Home. That money was intended to cover customers' funeral expenses.
40-year-old Beverly Susan Rene Smith was hired in 2001 as the office manager, and held the position until 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 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.
Smith was then 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.
When the previous owner of MTHF died in 2006, Smith hid the existence of the escrow account from other funeral home employees, according to the indictment. This way, she was able to place and withdraw money from the escrow account.
Smith received one count of felony wire fraud and appeared in court Tuesday 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, the charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000.