Article Courtesy of The Ledger
By Suzie Schottelkotte
Published March 21, 2017
BARTOW — The 60-year-old former treasurer of Cimarron Homeowners Association
near Medulla was sentenced to three years in prison Friday for stealing $122,779
from the group over an 11-year span.
Martha Beard, who still lives in the 72-home community, told Circuit Judge Wayne
Durden during Friday's hearing that she had intended to pay the money back, but
the debt became too great.
"This was a major
error in judgment on my part," she said, "and I take full
Her son, 33-year-old Matthew Beard, a freelance sound
technician for entertainment venues, was sentenced to two
years in prison Friday for his role in the theft. His mother
allowed him to use the association's debit card, as well,
piling up about $20,000 of the total that was taken.
They did repay $12,622 in four deposits before the theft was
discovered. Including that money, they stole a total
Both apologized to homeowners in the courtroom Friday, and
Durden said he believed their remorse to be sincere. He also
said he recognized the association's need to get the
$122,779 back through restitution.
But that need paled, he said, when balanced against the
"I don't think the need for restitution outweighs the need
for punishment," he said.
president of Cimarron Homeowners Association, said he agreed
with Durden's assessment.
"There are a lot of
angry people," he said.
Martha Beard, 60, and her son, Matthew Beard, 33, were in
Circuit Court on Friday for sentencing by Circuit Judge Wayne Durden for
stealing money from Cimarron Homeowners Association.
When asked what punishment they would like to see, he said they'd want the
maximum sentence. The common areas in the community have fallen into disrepair
because there wasn't money to fix them, he said, but the association is
beginning to recover financially.
Billie Wheeler, the association's vice president, said the homeowners feel
"The money would be nice," she said, "but they want jail."
In January, Martha Beard pleaded guilty to grand theft and scheme to defraud,
and her son pleaded no contest to identical charges. By pleading no contest, he
didn't admit guilt, but chose not to contest the allegations.
Neither of them had a plea agreement with prosecutors, which left them facing up
to 30 years in prison.
State sentencing guidelines called for each to receive 21 months in prison.
In addition to the prison time, Durden imposed 20 years' probation on Martha
Beard and 10 years' probation on her son. One of the conditions for probation is
that they make regular payments to the homeowners' association.
The missing money came to light in August 2015 when the association's lawn care
service reported the association owed about $29,000.
Santangelo said they checked the association's bank records that day, which
should have reflected a balance of about $20,000. Instead, the account held $39,
he said Friday.
When questioned by Polk County Sheriff's detectives, Martha Beard confessed,
according to reports, saying she had been laid off and needed the money for
During Friday's hearing, Anne Gonzalez, the association's secretary who said
Martha Beard had been her friend, said Beard had inherited some money when her
mother died about four years ago.
"At that point, she got a brand new kitchen," Gonzalez said. "She had a nice sum
of money and she chose not to pay (the association) at that time. My neighbors
want the maximum sentence."
Martha Beard's privately retained lawyer, J. Armando Edmiston of Tampa, argued
that her health would make prison difficult for her, and her time would be
better spent working her job as a dispatcher for a technology repair service,
earning money toward her restitution.
Tampa lawyer Thomas Grajek, representing Matthew Beard, posed a similar argument
But Assistant State Attorney Michael Hrdlicka asked the two defendants how much
they have put aside toward restitution, and when they said there was nothing, he
questioned their ability to come up with the money going forward.
"This idea that they can pay restitution in the future is simply that – an
idea," he said. "It's not something the court can rely upon."