Article Courtesy of The Ledger
By Suzie Schottelkotte
Published January 24, 2017
Martha Beard, 60, and her son, Matthew Beard, 33, each face up to 30 years in
prison on charges they stole an estimated $122,780 from their community's
homeowners' association over an 11-year span.
Martha Beard pleaded
guilty to grand theft of more than $100,000 and scheme to
defraud, and her son pleaded no contest to the same two
charges. By pleading no contest, Beard is not admitting
guilt, but is not contesting the charges.
Since neither has a plea agreement, Circuit Judge Wayne
Durden will decide what punishment they will serve.
Sentencing has been set for March 17.
Both of them had admitted to Polk County Sheriff's deputies
that they had taken the money, using it to pay household
expenses. Authorities said Martha Beard had deposited four
checks totaling $12,622 to repay part of the debt.
Martha Beard was elected treasurer in 2003 of the Cimarron
Homeowners Association in South Lakeland, handling the
finances for the Medulla-area community where she had lived
since 1994. An audit of the association's bank account shows
she began taking money from the group the following year,
totaling $2,005 in 2004, according to her arrest affidavit.
members didn't discover the problem until August 2015,
reports show, when a lawn care company reported that the
association owed nearly $27,000. When association officers
checked the bank account, they learned it contained only
Matthew Beard, left and Martha Beard
Martha Beard pleaded guilty to grand theft of more than
$100,000 and scheme to defraud, and her son pleaded no contest to the
same two charges.
Polk County Sheriff's investigators continued the investigation, retrieving
surveillance video of Martha Beard and Matthew Beard making personal purchases
and cash withdrawals using the association's debit card.
"Further transactions were discovered to include a cruise booked by Matthew
Beard, female clothing ordered by Martha Beard and delivered to Matthew Beard,
and an electronic payment to the city of Lakeland for Matthew Beard's business
location," the arrest affidavit states. Matthew Beard works in management at
Ultra Production Group in Lakeland.
In 2015, investigators said, the pair made cash withdrawals from the
association's account totaling $7,036 and purchases at Publix totaling $3,260.
In 2011, their unauthorized purchases totaled $17,465, representing the most
they ever spent in a single year, according to the affidavit.
Officers in the homeowners association told authorities Martha Beard had
authority to make only a handful of supply purchases and Matthew Beard had no
authority to spend the association's money.
Martha Beard continues to live in the Cimarron residential development, on West
Pipkin Road near Harden Boulevard, according to the Polk County Property
Appraiser's Office website.