College official kills himself

Feb. 22, 2013 at 1:01 AM

BENNINGTON, Vt., Feb. 22 (UPI) -- A former acting president of a Vermont college, under investigation for embezzlement, has died in an apparent suicide, police said.

The body of James Beckwith was found Wednesday, the Bennington Banner reported. Also Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney for Vermont filed a civil action seeking forfeiture of assets and charging that Beckwith had embezzled $440,000 from Southern Vermont College.

Beckwith, who became the college's chief financial officer and chief operating officer in 2007, became acting president last year when Karen Gross took a one-year leave to work for the U.S. Department of Education. He resigned Feb. 3 after the college began an investigation into checks that were issued to Merrill Lynch and allegedly paid into his personal account.

The college notified the FBI a few days later. Beckwith had not been charged with a crime when he died.

Federal prosecutors say Beckwith used college money to pay his mortgage on his home in South Londonderry and argued in court papers the house should be forfeited.

Southern Vermont is a private liberal arts college on the former Edward Everett estate near Bennington.

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