Former Gillett mayor pleads not guilty to 13 counts of theft

James Beaton
James Beaton(WBAY)
Published: Jul. 7, 2020 at 1:41 PM CDT
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OCONTO, Wis. (WBAY) - James Beaton, a former mayor of Gillett, pleaded not guilty to theft charges Tuesday and was bound over for trial.

Beaton, 39, is accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from a funeral home.

The Oconto County Sheriff's Office started investigating allegations of embezzlement last September.

According to the criminal complaint, the previous owner of Legacy Funeral Chapel told investigators that Beaton took out a $32,000 credit card and a $35,000 line of credit in the name of Kuehl Funeral Home.

The complaint says the former owner alleged Beaton sold one of the funeral home's hearses to a company in Appleton for $22,000. The check was made out to Beaton and the money was deposited into Beaton's personal checking account.

The former owner stated that “he had to take out $100,000 line of credit to pay off all the funeral home’s debt accumulated by Beaton.”

[Full Disclosure: In 2018, WBAY parent company Gray Television Group, Inc. filed a civil lawsuit against Beaton and Legacy Funeral Chapel Inc. Gray Television doing business as WBAY was awarded a $11,916.43 settlement. It was paid in full on Nov. 27, 2019.]

A trial date wasn’t set, but Beaton will have a pre-trial conference in mid-August.

Beaton mounted a successful write-in campaign to be elected mayor of Gillett in 2018.

The next year, the city council asked him to resign, saying he didn’t meet the residency requirement. Beaton eventually stepped down.

Copyright 2020 WBAY. All rights reserved.

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