Woman charged with stealing from vulnerable adult gets probation

Published 11:51 pm Friday, September 28, 2018

An Albert Lea woman charged with stealing thousands of dollars from an account of a person she knew was placed on probation for up to five years Friday in Freeborn County District Court.

Debra Kay Beighley, 65, was sentenced after she entered an Alford plea in July to felony financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. The Alford plea means Beighley asserted innocence but acknowledged the state would have had enough evidence to convict her.

While on probation, Beighley will be expected to remain law abiding, have no contact with the victim or the victim’s guardian or conservator, and follow other court requirements. Beighley will no longer be allowed to work in a fiduciary role.

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The count Beighley entered the plea to stipulates that she improperly used, managed or took control of property belonging to a vulnerable adult for the benefit of someone other than that person from September 2016 to March 2017.

Beighley paid $16,000 in restitution Friday.

Judge Ross Leuning gave Beighley a stay of adjudication sentence, meaning she will avoid having a criminal conviction on her record if she successfully completes probation.

Freeborn County Attorney David Walker recommended Beighley receive a stay of adjudication sentence because she has no criminal history.

Court documents state Beighley was charged after the victim’s account was missing approximately $18,000. Beighley, at that time the victim’s power of attorney, admitted taking at least $4,500 to $5,000 for herself, paid to “cash,” court documents state. Beighley said a lot of the money went to the victim’s legal guardian and the person would not take checks for payments. She said she would sign the checks to “cash” and endorse the checks, providing the cash to the legal guardian.

Court documents state Beighley could not produce records of who the money was given to and for what during the interview with police. She said she started taking payments of what she was owed from the victim’s account for managing the trust and received permission to do so by the trust’s co-executor.

Beighley’s lawyer, Jeremy Clinefelter, said Beighley has done a “considerable amount of work” for the victim since the 1990s, and within the last five years became aware she was entitled to compensation she had not received.

“She didn’t go about it right,” Clinefelter said.

Beighley never received a court order for payments for her work on the trust, and the trust did not allow any payments to her.

In a second interview, court documents state Beighley admitted taking $17,760 from the victim’s trust account, stating she believed she was entitled to more than $19,000 from the account due to being an executor of the trust.

Walker said the restitution amount factored in justifiable compensation. 

Leuning called the stay of adjudication sentence “a very good outcome” for Beighley and advised she follow probation requirements so the conviction is not placed on her record.

He told her she needed to follow proper steps to receive compensation for her work.

Court documents state the co-executor of the account denied Beighley was given permission or asked for permission to take money from the account for her personal use.

Beighley resigned from the trust in November.


See what happened last night in the PM report here.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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