Group Home Administrator Stands Trial: Accused Of Stealing Money From Disabled Clients

By Jeff Neumeyer

June 18, 2010 Updated Apr 20, 2010 at 5:30 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, IN (Indiana's NewsCenter) --- The director of a Fort Wayne group home is on trial for allegedly committing financial crimes against the clients he's charged with serving.

Allen County prosecutors who brought the case to trial maintain that Ernest Beal Jr., the top executive of the "Your Friends and Neighbors" group home, stole money from a trust fund set up for developmentally disabled residents of the facility.

But attorneys for the 57-year old Beal say he simply borrowed the money, and it's okay, because he paid it all back.

Beal, a church pastor who showed up for trial wearing cleric’s attire, faces one count of felony theft.

Prosecutors charge that between 2005 and 2009, Beal routinely ordered financial staff members to transfer federal social security monies from a resident trust fund into the group home’s operating accounts, so the business could meet payroll.

Part of the problem, according to prosecutors, Beal and his ex-wife each were drawing a $325-thousand annual salary.

Prosecutors argue, though the money was ultimately paid back with interest, that Beal’s conduct was way outside the law.

Beal's lawyers, meanwhile, say these were acceptable loans, that social security officials knew what was going on and didn't get riled about it, and that it's really a case of “no harm, no foul”.

Prosecutors in opening statements to the jury emphasized that three financial people with the group home challenged Beal over the money transfers.

One later resigned, one was fired and another was the chief whistleblower.

They maintain Beal didn't pay all the money back until authorities really turned the heat up on him.

The trial is scheduled to wrap up Thursday.

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