Communities place a lot of trust in local law enforcement. The uniform, the badge, and the title are bestowed upon trained professionals who are hired for peacekeeping and protection. That trust was violated by former Deschutes County Sheriff Office Captain Scott Raymond Beard, 46.
Beard worked in the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office as head of investigations for the drug division, known commonly as CODE (Central Oregon Drug Enforcement). Part of his duties involved the handling of federal funds, which his team could withdraw as "buy money," for use in sting operations in which undercover officers purchase narcotics from suspected criminals. It was Beard's job to approve these transactions.
"What Beard was doing was basically skimming from the top," says District Attorney John Hummel. "Someone would approach him and tell him they needed, say $5,000 for an investigation. Well, he would withdraw $10,000 and keep the difference."
Besides lining his pockets with "buy money," Beard also took evidence from investigations. According to the official indictment, he was keeping coins and other precious metals that were seized during arrests and raids, and evidence of these thefts stretch back as far as January 2014. In all, Beard's take is estimated at $205,747.
To add yet another twist to the story, Beard's girlfriend and co-defendant, Krista Murdock, was employed at the Deschutes County Sheriffs Office from February 2011 until March 2013. Despite the fact that Beard was married, the indictment makes clear that the two were involved in a sexual relationship from October 2013 until at least September 2015. It was during this time that Murdock went from girlfriend to codefendant, because Beard spend much of the money to pay for her breast augmentation surgery, as well as international and domestic vacations, concert tickets, basic monthly bills, gym memberships and even tanning fees.
Murdock's case is still pending, with a status hearing scheduled for July 3 at the Federal Building in Eugene. Since all of the funds were under Federal rule, both parties are subject to federal charges.
Beard pleaded guilty to two counts of theft of funds from a federally funded program and two counts of money laundering. US District Judge Michael McShane will hand down his sentence on Aug. 23. Beard is facing the possibility of spending the next 20 years in federal prison. As part of his plea agreement, he is required to pay back all of the $205,747 he embezzled.
The missing funds were discovered in a standard audit of funds and transactions conducted when Deputy County Sheriff Shane Nelson was appointed in July 2015. Nelson noticed a few discrepancies under Beard's handling of funds and ordered a more in-depth investigation. When that investigation identified possible misuse, he contacted the FBI.
"I'm glad that he got caught and I'm glad that the money he stole from the citizens will come back to them," says Nelson.
Hummel concurs, saying, "I am extremely proud of the way Sheriff Nelson handled this situation. The public can look at this two ways, but the way I would hope they look at it, and I am biased on this, but to look at it like we are identifying the problem and getting rid of it." According to Sherriff Nelson, "We are in the public service industry, and keeping those relations is extremely important. I am devastated that there was this infringement on the public's trust. We want to do what we can to win that back."
Hummel adds, "The difference between stealing from a retail store and abusing your power in law enforcement is significant. You may get a warning from your boss at the shop, but there really is no warning for those in uniform. Law enforcement are held to a higher standard, as they should be."
Longtime Bend residents will recall that in 2002, Deschutes County Sheriff Greg Brown pleaded guilty in federal court to embezzling $575,000 over six years. He was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison and required to repay the money.