Plea deal reached for embezzling from park

WELLSBURG — For embezzling $138,000 from Brooke Hills Park, Jonathan Beall of Wellsburg has been sentenced to five years of supervised probation, including two years of home confinement, and ordered to pay restitution, which he did after entering a plea agreement Wednesday in the Brooke County courtroom.

Beall’s attorney, Don Tennant, presented a check for $141,000 to Ruby Greathouse, president of the Friends of Brooke Hills Park, explaining the difference is for an amount owed by the park to Beall’s business, Robert Scott Lumber.

After pleading guilty to embezzlement and falsifying accounts as treasurer for the group, Beall apologized to park officials and to his wife and family for “soiling my family’s name.”

He told those attending he stood “with extreme shame, humiliation, guilt and regret.”

Beall said his actions were done “under the stress of managing my family’s business” and were done without anyone else’s knowledge.

“I took the money and no other person knew I took the money,” he said.

Brooke County Prosecutor Joseph Barki III said between April 2013 and May 2017 Beall withdrew money from an account for the Friends of Brooke Hills Park, a fundraising arm of the park board of which he was treasurer, and presented false account balances to fellow members to cover his actions.

West Virginia State Police officers investigating the matter said there’s evidence funds from the park were used to pay vendors owed by Beall’s business.

At Wednesday’s hearing Beall announced plans to sell the 100-year-old family business.

First Judicial Circuit Court Judge Ronald Wilson asked if park officials supported the plea agreement.

Barki said he consulted the park board and Friends of Brooke Hills Park and some initially wanted Beall to serve time in jail, but ultimately they believed the resolution was best for the park and county.

Bill Watson, attorney for the park board, said without it, the park board was unlikely to recover the stolen funds, including a $50,000 grant awarded to the park by the Charles and Thelma Pugliese Foundation for the construction of a cabin.

Watson expressed appreciation to the foundation for extending the deadline for the grant’s use while the case was resolved.

He said utility lines and other preparations for the cabin have been made and the prefabricated structure has been ordered.

Watson said because Beall wasn’t a member of the park board, he wasn’t involved in approving purchases for the park from his business.

Watson noted that when cashing checks to the Friends group, Beall didn’t arrange for another members’ signature, as required by the group’s bylaws. He said that will be done in the future, and the group and park board will review bank statements for the account.