Financial officer found guilty of stealing $200K from volunteer fire department

A longtime Ludlow Falls Fire Department financial officer pleaded no contest Tuesday to felony theft in office for stealing nearly $200,000 from the volunteer fire department.

Robert W. Smith Jr., 67, of Ludlow Falls, made the plea in Miami County Common Pleas Court.

He was found guilty by Judge Stacy Wall, who ordered a present investigation.

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Prosecutors agreed to recommend a community control sentence at sentencing scheduled for April 13.

The third-degree felony charge carries a possible sentence of up to three years. A restitution order is expected, Wall said.

Smith was not part of the state police and fire pension system as part of the volunteer department so there is no pension to pursue for restitution, said Janna Parker, assistant county prosecutor.

A report by sheriff’s deputies outlines an investigation that detectives said began in the fall with a call from the Ludlow Falls fire chief to deputies who were told of “suspicious activity” involving fire department finances.

Following an investigation, including execution of a search warrant at Smith’s home and orders for bank records, a detective said a “conservative” estimate was $192,237 was stolen beginning in 2016.

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Smith was described in the report as department secretary of treasury for nearly 30 years who kept financial records at home. The department was alerted of potential problems by the bank, the report said.

Documents showed that withdrawals from department accounts increased over time with several made in the Middletown area. Money was used for home equity payments, at a jewelry store, to pay for jail inmate calls and for credit cards. In addition, there were numerous cash withdrawals, detectives said.

Detectives said in the report that a department card apparently was used by others in the Middletown area, allegedly with Smith’s knowledge, for cash, tattoos and bar and restaurant bills.

Smith remains free on a recognizance bond.

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