Aberdeen woman pays $71K in restitution to rural firefighters, veterans group

ABERDEEN, S.D. (By Elisa Sand esand@aberdeennews.com) – An Aberdeen woman who admitted to stealing from two local organization has paid about $71,000 in restitution, most of which went to the Rural Firefighters Association.

Paula T. Beckler, 47, of Aberdeen pleaded guilty earlier to grand theft this year and was sentenced last week to 30 days in jail. She was also placed on probation for two years and, in addition to restitution, must pay $1,107 in fines and court costs.

Beckler was originally charged with grand theft and forgery. According to court documents, the grand theft charge is in connection to the theft of funds from the Rural Firefighters Association between January and Oct. 9, 2019. The other charge was in connection to missing funds from Disabled American Veterans.

Brown County State’s Attorney Ernest Thompson said about $1,700 was owed to Disabled American Veterans with the remaining balance to the Rural Firefighters Association. Prosecutors agreed not to pursue a hefty prison sentence, he said, providing restitution was paid at sentencing.

According to court records, nearly $46,000 was paid in restitution last week following sentencing. Thompson said Beckler also agreed to sign over her pension of about $25,000 to the Rural Firefighters Association.

Thompson said as bookkeeper for the Rural Firefighters Association, Beckler was siphoning funds in a variety of ways. She admitted in court to struggles with substance abuse and gambling, Thompson said.

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