By Sarah Mansheim
A local accountant has been found guilty of embezzling money from a trust in his charge.
On Friday, Feb. 19, a jury found Jeffrey Einer Lewis, 59, of Renick guilty of embezzlement by a fiduciary, but not guilty of financial exploitation of an elderly person. Lewis was convicted of embezzling nearly $833,000 from a testamentary trust belonging to John “Kay” Dawkins, 75.
During the three-day trial’s closing arguments, Assistant Prosecutor Keith McMillion advised the jury to focus on Lewis’ lack of prudence when handling the trust’s funds. McMillion said that Lewis, who loaned himself money from the trust a total of 13 times, never notified Dawkins of any of the transactions.
Lewis had testified that he had noted the loans in a Quickbooks file and that he had repaid the loans into the safekeeping of a civil court between Mar. 9 and Sept. 2, 2015.
McMillion told the jury that among the transactions was $180,000 used to buy stock in Bill Lewis Motors and $280,000 for renovations for the Lewisburg car dealership. Lewis was a partial owner of the dealership. McMillion also spoke of Lewis purchasing a farm for his son using the trust’s funds. Lewis, said McMillion, did not inform Dawkins of the property purchase, and Lewis’ son’s name was placed on the deed, and Lewis was named on the deed of trust.
As far as paying back the funds, McMillion reminded the jury that Lewis only began paying back the funds after a criminal investigation began.
Lewis’ attorney, James Cagle, told the jury that according to the codices of the trust, Lewis was entitled to the loans. Cagle told the jury that not only had Lewis repaid the loans in full, but he had paid interest on them as well, repaying the trust $884,000.
“Lewis made Kay money. They just don’t like the way he did it,” Cagle told the jury. Further, he said, “There is no evidence that Kay has gone without,” stating that the trustee receives $10,000 a month for his care and expenses. Dawkins is wheelchair bound.
The seven-woman, five-man jury deliberated for an hour and a half before handing up the verdicts.