Atlanta’s former chief financial officer pleads guilty to theft of government funds and tax obstruction


Date: April 8, 2024


ATLANTA — The City of Atlanta’s former chief financial officer (CFO), Jimmie “Jim” A. Beard, pleaded guilty today to theft of government funds, which included the purchase and possession of two machine guns, and obstructing federal tax laws.

“Jim Beard abused his power as the CFO for the City of Atlanta to steal tens of thousands of dollars from taxpayers to fund personal trips, luxuries, and even custom-built machine guns, then lied to the IRS and submitted altered records when called to account for suspicious write-offs,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “The people of the City of Atlanta deserved better stewards of taxpayer money, and Beard’s guilty plea today is a demonstration that public officials who abuse their power will be held accountable.”

“As a public official, Beard was delegated to conduct city business on behalf of Atlanta residents,” said Demetrius Hardeman, Acting Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation (CI), Atlanta Field Office. “Instead, he chose to steal from public coffers for his own benefit and willfully broke federal tax laws. Let Beard’s plea today serve as notice to others entrusted with carrying out government business on behalf of the people that IRS special agents and our law enforcement partners will investigate, and our justice system will hold accountable those who break the public’s trust.”

“Beard’s continuous abuse of his position as one of the most powerful executives in the City of Atlanta is not only a violation of his oath, but a violation to all other public official’s credibility, which erodes public trust in government,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “Public corruption is one of the FBI’s top priorities. It is our hope that by holding Beard accountable for his greed it will help regain some of the public’s trust.”

According to U.S. Attorney Buchanan, the charges and other information presented in court: From approximately November 2011 to May 2018, Beard served as the CFO of the City of Atlanta. As CFO, Beard directed and managed the Department of Finance, with primary responsibility for oversight and management of the City’s financial condition.

During his tenure, Beard devised and executed a scheme to obtain money and property from the City of Atlanta for private use, including using City of Atlanta funds to:

  1. pay for personal travel expenses for himself, his family, and his travel companions;
  2. buy items for personal use, including two machine guns;
  3. pay for travel to conferences or meetings for which the conference or meeting host reimbursed Beard, but Beard kept the money and did not give the reimbursement funds to the City of Atlanta; and
  4. pay for travel that Beard falsely claimed to the IRS was related to his personal consulting business.

In total, Beard stole at least tens of thousands of dollars from the City of Atlanta. By way of example only:

  • In August 2015, Beard used his city credit card to pay $1,278.72 for a hotel room at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Chicago, Illinois for a three-night weekend stay. Beard told the City that the hotel room was for a “Swap Advisory Engagement.” In reality Beard was not in Chicago that weekend, but booked the hotel for his stepdaughter to attend the Lollapalooza music festival.
  • In December 2015, Beard ordered two custom-built machine guns using a $2,641.90 check from the City, telling the manufacturer that the machine guns were for the Atlanta Police Department (“APD”) – even though he personally possessed the guns until about March 2017, when he abandoned the firearms at APD’s Executive Protection Office at City Hall.
  • In April 2016, Beard used his city credit card to pay $648.20 for airfare from Atlanta, Georgia to New Orleans, Louisiana for a weekend trip to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. However, Beard had no City business in New Orleans during that weekend and traveled with a personal companion. Additionally, he later represented to the IRS that this trip was for his personal consulting business and was not reimbursed by the City, claiming the charge as a business deduction to reduce the amount of personal taxes he owed.
  • In June 2016, Beard used his city credit card to pay $951.20 for airfare to Washington, D.C. and $24.32 for a taxi for a meeting with the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (“MSRB”). Even though Beard charged the travel to the city, Beard asked the MSRB to reimburse him personally for these costs and submitted copies of his receipts to the MSRB. As a result, the MSRB issued a check to Beard in the amount of $1,276.52, which Beard kept and deposited into his personal bank account.
  • During his tenure as CFO, Beard also submitted to the IRS a tax return for 2013, in which he claimed that he owned a consulting business which incurred more than $33,500 in alleged business losses in 2013, including $12,000 for travel expenses and $7,115 for deductible meals and entertainment expenses. In July 2015, the IRS advised Beard that it was auditing that tax return and requested that Beard provide documentation to support the purported expenses for his consulting business. In response, Beard falsely provided:
  1. receipts for airfare and hotels that Beard paid for using his City of Atlanta credit card (which Beard had previously told the City of Atlanta were for City business and his job as CFO);
  2. expense reports for personal meals with his wife and personal companions; and
  3. altered receipts that hid from the IRS the fact that the charges were incurred in connection with Beard’s work for the City of Atlanta. In reality, none of those expenses were for a consulting business.

In determining the actual sentence, the Court will consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.

Sentencing for Jimmie “Jim” A. Beard of Fort Lauderdale, Florida is scheduled for July 12, 2024, at 2 p.m. before U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones.

This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Garrett Bradford and Tiffany Johnson, Department of Justice Trial Attorney Trevor Wilmot, and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Davis prosecuted the case.

CI is the criminal investigative arm of the IRS, responsible for conducting financial crime investigations, including tax fraud, narcotics trafficking, money-laundering, public corruption, healthcare fraud, identity theft and more. CI special agents are the only federal law enforcement agents with investigative jurisdiction over violations of the Internal Revenue Code, obtaining a more than a 90 percent federal conviction rate. The agency has 20 field offices located across the U.S. and 12 attaché posts abroad.