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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Ohio

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Former Kirtland Hills police chief sentenced to two years in prison for stealing $80,000 from the village

The former police chief of Kirtland Hills was sentenced to two years in prison for defrauding the village out of at least $80,000 by making unauthorized purchases of clothing, tools and goods for his own personal use, said Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cleveland office.

Gerald Smith, Jr., 57, of Kirtland, previously pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of destruction, alteration or falsification of records in a federal investigation.

To date, Smith has paid $140,503, which covers the amount he stole and the village's related legal expenses. He was ordered to pay an additional $9,034 in restitution.

“Mr. Smith used the village treasury as his own personal checkbook,” Dettelbach said. “He violated the public's trust."

“When any law enforcement officer crosses the line of being a law-abiding citizen to becoming a law-breaking citizen it is disheartening," Anthony said. "The FBI will continue to pursue and bring to justice those in  a position of trust and authority that violate that trust by breaking the law."

Smith joined the Kirtland Hills police department in 1978 and served as chief from 1988 until April 4, 2014. In this capacity, Smith was authorized to reimburse officers for work-related expenses and use village funds to procure necessary supplies, including the use of several village credit cards or lines of credit, according to the information.

The department also had petty cash fund, maintained in Smith’s office, in which employees submitted receipts with their name and the purpose of the expense written on it, for which they were then reimbursed, according to court documents.

Smith made approximately $80,000 in personal expenditures using village credit cards between 2007 and 2014. Some of the items were used to partially furnish his Florida condominium. Items purchased include ceiling fans, plumbing supplies, vacuum cleaners, children’s lunch boxes and story books, clothing, televisions, book shelves, personal hygiene items, firearms, car repairs and more, according to court documents.

Smith concealed these purchases by making false entries on receipts to make it appear they were made by others or made for official police business. By spreading the purchases out among different funds, he prevented the village from readily noticing large amounts of expenditures from one particular fund, according to court documents.

For example, Smith went on a hunting trip to Pennsylvania in 2007. While on vacation, he made the following purchases on a Kirtland Hills credit card: knife sharpening ($70), items at an Army Navy store ($269.96), and items at a sporting goods store, including Pro Hunter pants and jacket and a shirt ($209.97). He then falsely wrote on the receipt that the sporting goods clothing was SWAT clothing for a Kirtland Hills officer, according to court documents.

In 2007, Smith ordered several items online, including a $107.96 pair of women’s tan Ugg boots with the village Mastercard. Smith falsely wrote on the receipt “Road Dept Boots and Boots for (a Kirtland Hills police officer),” knowing the officer did not receive the boots, according to court documents.

Smith also obtained Kirtland Hills money by submitting false claims to the petty cash fund. When Kirtland Hills officers went out to lunch, or when Smith took personal trips with officers and the group stopped for food, Smith at times asked for the receipts. He then submitted the receipts for petty cash reimbursement under the officers’ names but without their knowledge, taking the cash for himself, according to court documents.

On March 17, 2014, Smith was placed on leave by Kirtland Hills and required to surrender his access badges, keys and all village property. He was also served by FBI agents with a federal grand jury subpoena, which required the production of certain documents and items.

On March 20, 2014, Smith secretly brought more than 50 items from his residence to a village storage shed and placed the items on the shelves, to give the appearance that these items belonged to the Village of Kirtland Hills. Among the items Smith returned were a drill, heater, dehumidifier, air purifier, camouflage tarps, socket set, channel locks, extension cords, hammer, hand saw and other items, according to court documents.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon following an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Public Corruption
Updated April 16, 2015