Less than 24 hours after they were each indicted on 19 felony counts for stealing millions of dollars from Erath County clients, local accountants David Cheatham and Paul Lansford were escorted to the Erath County Jail Thursday by their attorney Garry Lewellen.
The businessmen, who have practiced for more than three decades, are partners in Stephenville-based accounting firm Cheatham and Lansford, CPA.
Both are being held in lieu of bond, which had not been set as of press time.
The duo was indicted on charges involving theft and misapplication of funds involving estate and trust funds belonging to two Erath County families and accounts of two local non-profit organizations.
David Thomas Cheatham, 65, and Paul Anthony Lansford, 69, are accused of stealing and misapplying funds from multiple trust funds belonging to the Edith and Gaylon Ray “Jack” Beyer family.
The alleged offenses against the Beyers occurred from April 2003 to January 2009 and involved funds totaling more than $1 million.
The accountants are also accused of stealing and misapplying funds of nearly $2 million from a trust belonging to James T. Poston. The offenses allegedly occurred over a 20-year period, from 1989 until May 2009.
The indictment alleges the partners took money from Poston without consent.
In 2009 alone, funds were reportedly taken from the trust weekly and in some cases day after day. Daily withdraws ranged from $320 to $30,000.
A fifth indictment alleges Cheatham misapplied $1,500 to $20,000 involving an account belonging to First Baptist Church of Stephenville in January 2007.
Lansford is also accused of misapplying funds belonging to Pecan Valley Facilities, Inc., a local mental health treatment facility and non-profit organization. The indictment alleges “the aggregate value of the property obtained was $20,000 or more but less than $100,000.”
The indictments, which were handed down Wednesday by an Erath County grand jury, followed a seven-month investigation conducted by the Texas Rangers, district attorney’s office and the United States Secret Service.
Cheatham was indicted on six first-degree felonies, eight third-degree felonies and five state jail felonies, while Lansford was indicted on six first-degree felonies, nine third-degree felonies and four state jail felonies.
Calls to Lewellen Thursday for comment were not returned.
Meanwhile, Jason Johnson, attorney for the Beyer family, issued a statement Thursday on the family’s behalf.
“Jack and Edith Beyer worked hard their whole lives and were fortunate to be able to leave something for their children and grandchildren. The actions of David Cheatham and Paul Lansford have forever changed our lives and have erased the legacy of Jack and Edith’s hard work,” the statement read. “We are thankful for the hard work of the Erath County district attorney’s office and all the law enforcement officers who have assisted in the investigation. While we are not the only ones affected, we are relieved that no other families will suffer as we have.”
The Poston family declined to comment.