Friday, February 22, 2013

Nonprofit Fraud: College President Dips In The Till...then Dies

By Gary Snyder

The acting president of a small Vermont liberal arts college, Southern Vermont College, was found dead in an apparent suicide amid an investigation into the embezzlement of $440,000 in school funds. James Beckwith’s body was discovered the same day federal prosecutors filed a civil complaint involving the alleged misappropriation of college money.

Beckwith was accused of taking the money between October 2012 and January while serving as acting president of the school in Bennington. Authorities said he deposited the money into a personal account, using $260,000 to pay down two mortgages.

Prosecutors said Beckwith had college officials issue three checks to Merrill Lynch, saying they were to settle legal claims arising from a failed dormitory project. But the checks for $100,000, $160,000 and $180,000 were deposited into a personal account, prosecutors said.

A recent audit of the college's finances for the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2012, found several suspicious financial transactions involving purported vendor payments by Beckwith, the U.S. attorney's office said.

When questioned about the matter, Beckwith resigned on Feb. 3

Beckwith had been chief financial officer and chief operating officer of the college since 2007. He served as acting president while school president Karen Gross was on a one-year leave as a senior policy adviser to the U.S. Education Department.

Nonprofit Imperative gathers its information principally from public documents...some of which are directly quoted. Virtually all cited are in some phase of criminal proceedings; some have not been charged, however. Cites in various media: Featured in print, broadcast, and online media outlets, including: Vermont Public Radio, Miami Herald, National Public Radio, Huffington Post, The Sun News, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Wall Street Journal (Profile, News and Photos), FOX2, ABC Spotlight on the News, WWJ Radio, Ethics World, Aspen Philanthropy Newsletter, Harvard Business Review, Current Affairs, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, St. Petersburg Times, B, USA Today Topics, Newsweek.com, Responsive Philanthropy Magazine, New York Times...and many more Nonprofits: On the Brink (2006) Silence: The Impending Threat to the Charitable Sector (2011)
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