BENNINGTON - Former Southern Vermont College Interim President James Beckwith is being accused by the U.S. Department of Justice of embezzling $440,000 from the college.

The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont filed a civil forfeiture complaint on Wednesday seeking to forfeit assets in the name of James Beckwith, who is also the former chief financial officer and chief operating officer SVC.

According to the complaint and an accompanying affidavit prepared by the FBI, Beckwith embezzled $440,000 from the school between Oct. 2012 and Jan. 2013. Officials said he allegedly did so by fraudulently inducing college officials to issue three checks - for $100,000, $160,000 and $180,000 - to Merrill Lynch. Beckwith allegedly falsely informed officials that the funds were to be used to settle legal claims arising from a failed dormitory project.

According to federal officials, the three checks were deposited into a personal account Beckwith had with Merrill Lynch. They said he used $260,000 of the $440,000 to pay down two mortgages secured by his personal residence in South Londonderry. The complaint alleges that Beckwith's residence, as well as the money in his Merrill Lynch account, are forfeitable as proceeds of mail fraud and as property involved in money laundering.

Federal officials said no charges have been filed and are only accusations.

The case has been investigated by the FBI in Rutland and in Albany, N.Y.



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