MIAMI COUNTY — The former treasurer of the Ludlow Falls Volunteer Fire Department was sentenced to serve five years of community service in an attempt to repay the nearly $200,000 he stole from the department.
Robert Smith Jr., 67, of Ludlow Falls, entered a plea of no contest and was found guilty of third-degree felony theft in office last month.
The alleged total loss of funds, estimated by the Detective Division of the Miami County Sheriff’s Office, is approximately $192,236.
Smith appeared with his attorney Steve King by video while Miami County Common Pleas Court Judge Stacy Wall conducted the sentencing hearing in the courtroom on Monday.
King said Smith was cooperative with law enforcement throughout the process and was remorseful for his actions. Smith said, “It’s unfortunate and I knew better,” and said he’d like to have the opportunity to pay back the funds. Wall asked Smith what prompted him to steal from the department that he served with for 30 years. Smith said his addiction to pain medication and later that a relationship with another woman played a role.
“It’s hurt me, the fire department, my wife — I really screwed up,” said Smith, who said he plans to find a job and sell his home to help repay the money.
A joint plea agreement for Smith to be placed on community control was honored. Miami County Assistant Prosecutor Janna Parker did request local jail time as part of his sentence. Judge Wall said she’d review the case in six months, reserved 30 days local jail as well as two years in prison if Smith fails to comply with the community control sanctions.
Parker said the Ludlow Falls Fire Department is devastated by the loss of funds, which in return poses a risk to the community as a whole.
Judge Wall also granted the state’s request for a no contact order with any member of the fire department. Smith is also to have no contact with the female party who allegedly used the department’s debit card for days after Smith gave it to her to use.
“You need to do what you need to do so that the fire department gets their money,” Wall said. Wall said Smith didn’t have a plan to repay the funds and only was sorry for putting himself in a “whole world of hurt” instead of apologizing to the community and the department.
Wall ordered Smith to obtain full-time employment, abide by a curfew, pay court costs and complete a mental health and substance abuse evaluation. Smith is also to make monthly payments to the department.
Other special conditions of the charge include a life-time ban from holding a public office or position of trust. Since the department was volunteer, Smith did not have a state pension.
On Oct. 26, 2019, the Miami County Sheriff’s Office began an investigation of Smith’s alleged misconduct regarding the Ludlow Falls Volunteer Fire Department’s funds. It was noted Smith had been the fire department’s secretary of treasure for 30 years.
According to the sheriff’s reports, a Ludlow Falls Fire Department officer was contacted by the department’s bank regarding suspicious activity regarding its checking account. A search warrant was obtained and Smith was interviewed by detectives on Oct. 29. His home and vehicle were also searched due to the department’s financial records at Smith’s home.
Upon review of the bank statements, large amounts of ATM withdrawals, money transfers and debit card purchases were being made in the city of Middletown and Dayton area. Alleged purchases included restaurants, tattoo parlors, retail and jewelry stores and money orders. On Monday, Wall also noted Smith used the department’s funds to make expensive phone calls to the female party in jail when she was detained for alleged drug trafficking in Dayton. The department’s savings account of $12,000 and certificate of deposit worth $30,000 had also been closed and cashed out.