Former Atlanta chief financial officer pleads guilty to stealing money from city for trips and guns


ATLANTA (AP) — The former chief financial officer for Atlanta pleaded guilty on Monday to stealing money from the city for personal travel and guns and trying to cheat the federal government on his income taxes.

Jim Beard, 60, pleaded guilty to one count of federal program theft and one count of tax obstruction in federal court in Atlanta.

U.S. District Judge Steve Jones is scheduled to sentence Beard on July 12. Beard could face as many as 13 years in prison but is likely to be sentenced to substantially less under federal guidelines.

Beard served as the city’s chief financial officer under Mayor Kasim Reed, managing Atlanta’s financial resources from 2011 to 2018. Beard is the 10th person to be convicted in an anti-corruption probe into Reed's administration. Most of the others were convicted on charges of giving or taking bribes for city contracts. Reed himself has never been charged.

During his time in office, Beard used city money to pay for personal trips and to illegally buy two machine guns for himself, he admitted in his plea agreement.

Federal prosecutors said Beard stole tens of thousands of dollars from the city, although the plea outlined about $5,500 in thefts.

That includes spending over $1,200 for his stepdaughter to spend three nights in a Chicago hotel room during an August 2015 music festival. Beard said he was there to discuss interest rates on city debt.

Beard also admitted to buying two custom-made machine guns from Georgia manufacturer Daniel Defense in 2015, paying $2,641.90 with a city check. Beard had claimed the guns were for the Atlanta Police Department — it's generally illegal for civilians to possess machine guns in the United States — but he kept them until he left them in 2017 at the police department office overseeing the mayor's protection.

He also spent $648 on airfare to New Orleans to attend the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in April 2016, later deducting the same expense from his income taxes by telling the IRS it was for his personal consulting business. Beard also double-dipped by charging the city nearly $1,000 in travel expenses to a New York meeting with a bond regulatory agency and then getting the same agency to reimburse him $1,276.52.

Beard also claimed $33,000 in losses from his consulting business on his 2013 income tax return, with the IRS ultimately allowing him to deduct $12,000 in business travel expenses he never spent.

Under the plea, Beard is giving up his claim to the guns and is agreeing to pay back various entities including the city of Atlanta.