Smith pleads to embezzlement charges

Published 5:07 am Wednesday, January 3, 2007

By Staff
NILES – The Niles woman facing two embezzlement charges stemming from her positions with Niles Community Schools and the Brian Parker Memorial Foundation entered a no contest plea Friday in Berrien County Trial Court in Niles, Assistant Berrien County Prosecutor Kelly Travis said.
Beverly Smith, 63, pleaded no contest to two felony embezzlement charges and she will be sentenced the morning of Monday, Feb. 12, Travis said. The no contest plea skips the trial process, Travis added, and also the preliminary probable cause hearing scheduled for today.
Smith was charged Nov. 29 with allegedly taking more than $20,000 from the Niles school district after an audit found $64,300 of deposits from the 2005-2006 school year were unaccounted for. Court papers also stated Smith, an employee with Niles schools for more than 30 years, was responsible for picking up, depositing and recording the deposits in question.
Last month, additional embezzlement charges were filed against Smith for allegedly stealing more than $20,000 from the Brian Parker Memorial Foundation. Smith served on the cancer fundraising organization's board of directors for the last 15 years and as treasurer for the past two years.
The Brian Parker Memorial Foundation raises funds for contribution to cancer research and treatment facilities, cancer educational grants and to local cancer patients and their families. The foundation was created by Niles residents Dick and Judy Parker in memory of their son, Brian, who died from leukemia in 1980 at the age of 14.
James Mollison, a Niles attorney and spokesperson for the foundation, stated in a December press release that the board of directors looked into its accounts immediately following the news of Smith's original charges. Smith was fired by Niles schools Nov. 16 and removed from her position with the Brian Parker Memorial Foundation Nov. 30.
Travis said Smith could face a sentence of up to 10 years and/or fines of $15,000 or three times the amount of money embezzled for each charge. She added Smith also remains on $10,000 bail, part of which requires her to stay out of casinos and/or gambling establishments.
Travis said she expects a representative from both Niles Community Schools and the Brian Parker Memorial Foundation to be present at the Feb. 12 sentencing.