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At Least Benda Didn’t Use a Nail Gun…

During and after his tenure as South Dakota's economic development chief under Governor Mike Rounds, Richard Benda was involved in some questionable financial deals. The Department of Legislative Audit's report issued last week found that Benda arranged a lucrative private contract for himself that posed a conflict of interest with his public position. The report increases by an order of magnitude the taxpayer dollars Benda took in reimbursements for questionable expenses, such as unnamed translators in the Philippines. He was a key player in two enormous and failed business projects tied to the EB-5 visa investment program.

The official story is that Benda shot himself in the stomach with a shotgun because of the stress associated the investigation and failure of his questionable activities. Some South Dakotans have questioned that official story, saying politics underlie the story.

But if you consider it unlikely that a somewhat successful middle-aged white man would kill himself in a rather inconvenient, unreliable, and painful way over several thousand dollars, consider the story of Richard Talley, a Colorado CEO who apparently dodged investigators by killing himself with a nail gun:

Title company CEO Richard Talley killed himself with a nail gun the very day auditors from a Texas title-insurance firm he worked for were likely to uncover years of embezzled escrow funds, according to a federal lawsuit.

Title Resources Guaranty Co. says in the lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court that it first uncovered inequities in ledgers kept by Talley companies — American Title Services and America's Home Title — in late January, which it said "appeared to be altered to create the facade of balanced trust accounts."

When a closer look showed "large negative balances" in the accounts used to hold escrow funds on real estate deals that Talley companies oversaw, TRGC sent an audit team to see where the money had gone.

The lawsuit was filed in part to help learn that answer.

Talley, 56, killed himself at his home Feb. 4 with at least a half-dozen shots from a nail gun to the "trunk and head," according to the Arapahoe County coroner's office.

TRGC's audit team had requested a meeting with Talley earlier that day, presumably to ask him to explain the ledger discrepancies, the lawsuit says. He did not attend [David Migoya, "Uncovered Missing Escrow Funds Could Be Nail-Gun Suicide's Cause," Denver Post, 2014.02.12].

No word yet on how the fudge in Talley's ledgers stacks up against Benda's funky finances. But consider that while South Dakota's investigators took 31 days to issue an official statement on the cause of Benda's death, the Arapahoe County Coroner was able to declare Talley's cause of death in two days.

What Richard Benda and his friends did with our money is still a larger, more important story than exactly how he died. But Talley's grisly suicide reminds us that desperate humans do desperate things, and that Benda's suicide, while surprising and seemingly unlikely, is perfectly plausible (hmm... rather like evolution...).


  1. John 2014.02.17

    Good thing Brenda didn't work for the SD High School Activities Association.

  2. Roger Cornelius 2014.02.17

    Does it take a twig to fire a nail gun?

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