Justin K. Smith

Use of dating website led to capture of fugitive soccer coach in Florida

A Germantown man who had been on the run from the law for 45 days after being convicted of sex crimes involving a 14-year-old was captured Friday evening in Florida.

Justin K. Smith was captured shortly after 6 p.m. Friday in the Fort Walton Beach area. He was booked into the Okaloosa County Jail as a fugitive from justice.

RELATED: Soccer coach who flees sex assault trial subject of nationwide search

Smith had been one step ahead of authorities and using cash and burner cellphones to evade arrest, said Rob Streck, chief deputy with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, and it was his use of a dating website that finally led to his apprehension.

A woman Smith communicated with cooperated with local authorities in Florida.

“She did the right thing, which is research who you’re talking to,” Streck said. “As she did that research, she came across all the information that he was wanted out of Dayton.”

That woman went to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office with photos of the man she was communicating with, and they confirmed it was Smith. She then texted him to meet her at the request of law enforcement, and Smith was taken into custody without incident, Streck said. Smith had a backpack in his possession with cash and multiple cell phones in it.

RELATED: Detective: Fugitive soccer coach uses Uber, eats at Panera in Tennessee

Smith, 41, took off in the middle of his sexual assault trial after he took the stand on Halloween. He never returned following a lunch break, and his ankle monitor was later found in Franklin.

He was absent when a judge convicted him of three counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, three counts of sexual battery and two counts of sexual imposition involving a 14-year-old girl Smith coached in soccer. He had waived his right to a jury trial.

Smith must be present for sentencing, and law enforcement has been tracking his movements as he fled south. The U.S. Marshal Service assisted Montgomery County Sheriff’s detectives in following tips and leads on his whereabouts.

RELATED: Court reverses freeze on fugitive soccer coach’s bank accounts

He had been spotted in Kentucky just after his disappearance and in a couple cities in Tennessee in early November. He was getting around using prepaid credit cards and prepaid cellphones, and even traveling by Uber, but detectives were always a couple days behind his transactions.

“He’s been a little bit ahead of us every time,” Streck said. Smith was using a name that was very similar to his real name in the places he stopped.

RELATED: Court reverses freeze on fugitive soccer coach’s bank accounts

Detectives believed that Smith drained his public employee retirement from his former job at the Montgomery County Developmental Disabilities Board to open a new account and was using that money. They obtained a court order Dec. 6 to freeze that account, but Smith’s lawyers said it was unlawful because there was no proof Smith was using it. His lawyers said the account was to provide for his wife and three children. The account was unfrozen five days later, before a hearing happened.

Smith was taken into custody at a townhome in Florida, and had been in the area a couple of weeks, according to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.

RELATED Photos show fugitive Germantown soccer coach at hotel in Lexington, Ky., area

“Monday morning more than likely he’ll have an extradition hearing,” Streck said. If he waives his right to fight extradition he could be back in Ohio in about 10 days. Prosecutors will also meet to discuss any additional charges Smith could face for removing his ankle monitor and fleeing the state.

Got a tip? Call our monitored 24-hour line, 937-259-2237, or send it to newsdesk@cmgohio.com

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