ATL CFO trial: Guns, wire fraud charges stay together

By David Pendered

Feb. 1 – Former Atlanta CFO Jim Beard will face charges in the same federal corruption trial on counts involving two machine guns and wire fraud, a federal judge ruled Jan. 24.

U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones issued an order rejecting Beard’s claim that prosecuting him in the same trial on counts involving the two machine guns and wire fraud would be “highly prejudicial,” according to the order.

Jim Beard, former Atlanta CFO

The weapons Beard is charged with possessing were manufactured by Daniel Defense, the Savannah-area company that made one of the weapons used in the killing of 19 students and two teachers on May 24, 2022 at a school in Uvalde, Tx.

Beard was charged with unlawful possession of a machine gun in connection with two firearms described in court records as:

  • “(1) ‘one custom-built, full- automatic Daniel Defense 5.56 millimeter DDM4 rifle, configured as a DD MK18, equipped with a 10.3 inch barrel’; and (2) ‘one custom-built, full-automatic Daniel Defense 5.56 millimeter DDM4 rifle, configured as a DD M4A1, equipped with a 14.5 inch barrel.’”

Beard’s lawyers had asserted that a federal magistrate had erred in not severing the charges related to guns and wire fraud. The magistrate who had rejected the request to separate the charges cited cases in which the “gun charges are in the context of drug charges, not small dollar value wire fraud and tax evasion charges.’”

Beard’s objection over the simultaneous prosecution of automatic machine guns and the wire fraud was one of five objections filed in an attack on the indictment. Jones rejected all five objections filed by Beard’s defense team, according to the Jan. 24 order.

The charge regarding the two machine guns is part of an eight count federal indictment. In announcing the charges, on Sept. 16, 2020 then-U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak said the charges included “stealing tens of thousands of dollars of the public’s money, possessing machine guns that members of the public cannot have, and obstructing an IRS audit.”

The trial now is scheduled to begin Aug. 21 in U.S. District Court in Atlanta. The trial had been set for April 3. Jones granted the delay at the request of federal prosecutors, who cited an “anticipated family medical event” expected to occur April 11 – which would be during the trial.

Beard’s team didn’t oppose the delay. Beard is not detained pending trial.

Beard served as Atlanta’s CFO from approximately November 2011 to May 2018, according to Pak’s statement. Kasim Reed served as Atlanta mayor from inauguration in 2010 through the swearing-in of his successor in January 2018, Keisha Lance Bottoms.

The Richard B. Russell Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse. (Credit: David Pendered)