Former police chief charged with fraud and falsification

Former police chief charged with fraud and falsification

KIRTLAND HILLS, OH (WOIO) - Former Kirtland Hills Police Chief Gerald Smith was charged Friday with defrauding the village out of over $80,000.

US Attorney Steven Dettlebach says Smith, 57, used village credit cards to buy personal items for his own use.

He was charged with one count of mail fraud and one count of alteration or falsification of records in a federal investigation.

"This defendant stole from the people he swore to serve," Dettlebach said. "He used the public coffers to furnish his condo and pay for his meals. There will be consequences for public officials who violate the public's trust."

From 2007 to 2014, Smith is accused of racking up around $80,000 in personal spending on the village credit cards. Some items purchased were used to furnish his home in Florida, and he also purchased items like ceiling fans, plumbing supplies, vacuum cleaners, children's materials, clothing, TV's, firearms, car repairs, and more.

Authorities say Smith concealed the purchases by making false entries on receipts, making the purchases seem official. And, by spreading the purchases out on different accounts, the village didn't notice large amounts of money missing.

During a 2007 hunting trip, Smith used the cards to buy items at a sporting goods store, and an Army-Navy Store. He turned in the receipts, saying that it was SWAT clothing for an officer. That same year, he ordered a pair of women's Ugg boots with the village card, citing it was road department boots, and boots for an officer.

Smith is also accused of dipping into the village's petty cash fund, reimbursing himself for personal food purchases. He would often submit those under the other officer's names without their knowledge.

On March 17, Smith was placed on leave by Kirtland Hills and was told to surrender all village property. The FBI served him with a federal grand jury subpoena, requiring him to show documents and items.

Then on March 20, he brought more than 50 items from his home to the village storage shed, trying to say the items belonged to the village.

Smith was Chief of Police in Kirtland Hills from 1988 until April 4 of this year. He was authorized to reimburse officer for work-related expenses and use village credit to buy supplies for the department.

The FBI investigated the case, and Assistant US Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon will serve as prosecutor.

Our Blake Chenault spoke with the US Attorney's office and will have more on this story tonight at 10 & 11 on 19 Action News.

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