Niles’ Smith sentenced for stealing from school

Published 12:35 pm Tuesday, February 13, 2007

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES – Beverly Smith was ordered Monday to pay back more than $300,000 she embezzled from Niles Community Schools and the Brian Parker Memorial Foundation.
Judge Scott Schofield delivered the sentence in the South County Courthouse in Niles in front of a number of representatives from both affected parties, said Kelly Travis, Berrien County assistant prosecuting attorney.
"[It was] extremely emotional; very poignant and moving," Travis said of the comments made by representatives of the Brian Parker Memorial Foundation.
Representatives from Niles schools were on hand but declined to comment, Travis said. But, superintendent Doug Law said later: "We were pleased that the sentencing of Bev[erly] Smith was in the higher end of the range that the prosecutor had told us was a possibility."
Law said Smith took from Niles schools about $260,000. Their insurance company, Middle Cities Trust Agency, covered $244,000, leaving the district with a loss of about $15,000, Law added.
In a phone message Tuesday morning James Mollison, an attorney, spokesperson and board member with the Brian Parker Foundation, said the organization was pleased with the decision.
"[The decision] was very well thought out and very well documented and very fair under the circumstances. It was a difficult decision and difficult for everyone, but I do think that the judgment was proper," Mollison said.
Smith took $52,194.18 from the Brian Parker Foundation, Mollison said, adding a $1,000 audit cost was also tagged on to the final number. He also said the sentencing lasted about an hour and a half and Judge Schofield listened to anyone that wanted to speak.
Along with paying restitution to all victims, Travis said the judge ordered Smith, 63, to 270 days in jail starting immediately after sentencing, which after 180 days she can request to be placed on the tether program. Smith also received five years of probation with all normal terms and conditions and 500 hours of community service.
Smith was also prohibited from obtaining any job or volunteer services that places her in charge of any money, or from entering any gambling establishments, and was ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation, Travis said.
Smith, an employee of Niles schools for more than 30 years, was charged Nov. 29, 2006, with felony embezzlement for taking school money while serving as bookkeeper for the district.
Just weeks later, a second felony embezzlement charge against Smith was filed for stealing from the Brian Parker Foundation. Smith had served on the cancer fundraising organization's board of directors for the last 15 years and as treasurer for the past two years.
Many of the sentencing guidelines are statutory, Travis said. A payment plan was established for Smith to reimburse the Brian Parker Foundation, Niles Community Schools and Middle Cities Trust Agency, Travis added.
"Theoretically speaking, she is making payments as part of probation," Travis said.
Travis also said all three parties have the option at any time of filing a civil suit against Smith for the money owed, however, no one indicated to her they were taking such action.