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Kirksville business owner, community leader admits bank fraud

Burt Beard, the owner of Beard’s Decorating Center in Kirksville and a former president of Kirksville Regional Economic Development, Inc., agreed to plead guilty to one felony count of bank fraud on Thursday, federal court records show. (KTVO File)

A Kirksville business owner and community leader is facing prison time for bank fraud.

Burt Beard, 62, the owner of Beard’s Decorating Center in Kirksville and a former president of Kirksville Regional Economic Development, Inc., agreed to plead guilty to one felony count of bank fraud on Thursday, federal court records show. As part of the plea deal, Beard waived a grand jury indictment.

According to court documents, while the volunteer treasurer for the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Missouri, Beard wrote himself more than 150 checks totaling over $380,000 in fraudulent payouts from March 2008 to August 2014.


The fraternity became suspicious when Beard would not turn over access to the organization’s bank account to a newly elected treasurer. During the subsequent investigation, Beard produced fake cancelled checks and fabricated invoices, telling federal investigators that he had reimbursed himself for payments to vendors made from his personal bank account.

Some of the vendors turned out not to exist, while others said they had never done business with SAE and did not have records of the invoices Beard had produced. Beard told the FBI that he was simply a “sloppy bookkeeper,” and to his knowledge, hadn’t done anything illegal. He denied fabricating any invoices.

The maximum sentence is 30 years in prison, restitution and a $1 million fine, but it is unlikely that Beard will receive the maximum.

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