A Harrington Park man has been charged with using the Franklin Lakes Veterans of Foreign War coffers as his own personal piggy bank over the course of at least five years, according to borough police and a VFW official.
John Beahm, 57, the treasurer of VFW Post 5702 was arrested Friday by and charged with theft, misapplication of entrusted property, theft by deception, and credit card fraud. Beahm is alleged to have illegally used the post's checking account and credit card since at least 2007.
Beahm was a member of Post 5702 for at least 20 years according to Post Commander Steve Vreeland.
"Generally speaking [we are] are shocked," Vreeland said.
Vreeland first discovered the accounting discrepancies in March while conducting personal banking.
"I was at doing banking for my [personal] business when they opened up the wrong account," he said.
That's when bank officials and Vreeland saw books for Post 5702.
"The VFW had no money, we actually owed $900," he said. "[Beahm] was drawing money out for his business, his personal use... transactions that clearly had nothing to do with the VFW."
Vreeland believes that Beahm's alleged theft was motivated by problems in his personal life.
"He would frequently talk about his business... he always led you to believe that he was having some financial troubles," Vreeland said.
As the post's treasurer, Beahm was one of the most trusted people in the VFW, Vreeland said. But the 57-year-old man had been presenting falsified financial documents to post members for at least five years, according to Vreeland.
The commander added that Beahm not only spent every last dime in their savings account, he also left them with about $20,000 in debt that they're now left to pay off.
"He took all of our money: poppy money, donations, our CDs were gone, he took out a $10,000 loan [in the post's name] and [authorized charges on a] credit card that we now owe $10,000 on — it was everything plus more."
Vreeland has very little hope that any future charges against Beahm will lead to restitution for Post 5702.
"We are talking about [a] civil suit, but if his finances were that bad what could we possibly get from him?" he said. "That could be an exercise in futility.
"The fact that he's facing criminal charges is probably more important," he added. "In a way he is paying for this."
The last time Vreeland spoke with Beahm was March 27, when the alleged thief turned paperwork over to police.
"I advised him not to come back to the post," Vreeland said.
"I had to report this to the district, state, and national headquarters. Ultimately when this case gets adjudicated or whatever happens... there are certain steps we can take to [remove him from the VFW roll] but first, he has to be found guilty," he added.
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