Fired Middletown senior center director’s husband wrote more than $56K in bad checks to facility: court docs

Vincent Smith, 56, of Sabina is facing seven felony counts of passing a total of $56,300 in bad checks in connection with the Middletown senior citizen facility
Published: Aug. 23, 2023 at 1:46 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 24, 2023 at 8:58 AM EDT
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MIDDLETOWN, Ohio (WXIX) - The fraud investigation into money allegedly stolen from a local organization related to Middletown’s senior center is heating up with the arrest of the recently fired director’s husband.

Vincent Smith, 56, of Sabina faces seven felony counts of passing a total of $56,300 in bad checks in connection with the Middletown senior citizen facility, Central Connections, according to court records and Middletown police.

Smith was arrested Monday night and was held without bond at the city jail until his arraignment Wednesday afternoon.

His bond was set at $5,000. He can leave after paying 10%, or $500.

Smith is due back in court next week for a pretrial hearing on Wednesday at 9 a.m.

Unless he is indicted first by a Butler County grand jury.

Smith’s criminal complaint says the charges resulted from a fraud investigation “at Central Connections with the executive director.”

If and when the senior center investigation and the criminal case against the former director’s husband rise to the level of the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office, they stand ready to take it.

“I will be waiting at the door,” Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser told FOX19 NOW before Smith’s arraignment Wednesday.

His attorney, Christopher Deal, did not respond to requests for comment.

He told the judge Smith has no prior criminal record and is employed.

All of the checks Smith is accused of bouncing were written on an account at his bank, Keybank, to Central Connections for about a year starting in June 2022, according to the court filing.

The checks were all returned for insufficient funds, leading investigators to believe Smith was trying to return money taken from the senior center’s account, court records show:

  • One $6,500 check on June 1, 2022
  • Two checks in the amount of $14,000 and $4,000 on April 16, 2023
  • Two separate $7,000 checks totaling $14,000 on April 17, 2023
  • One $2,800 check on June 5, 2023
  • One $15,000 check

Smith’s wife, Diane Rodges, was abruptly terminated last month by the board that oversees Central Connections senior center. She was escorted from the building by police and ordered to never return.

Middletown Police Chief David Birk has said Rodgers is the focus of an ongoing criminal investigation that is now receiving assistance from a forensic accountant with the state’s law enforcement agency, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Rodgers has not been charged.

Rodgers’ attorney, Tyrone Borger of Springboro, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

He recently declined comment on her behalf in a prepared statement:

“My client and I have been informed that there is an ongoing investigation. As such, while my client would like to comment and clear up several misconceptions, she is taking my advice and refusing to comment on any allegations at this time.”

Middletown City Council, meanwhile, is trying to save the senior center from closing its financial issues and the investigation.

The council recently voted to lease it while city officials continue exploring whether it is viable to buy the building and property on Central Avenue from the non-profit agency that owns it, Middletown Area Senior Citizens Inc.

Middletown Area Senior Citizens Inc. does business as Central Connections, according to online records at the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office.

The property is valued at $2.1 million, according to Butler County property records.

If that happens, public money will have paid for the facility not once but twice.

Nearly $7 million from a Middletown senior services levy paid off the mortgage on the property when the levy ended on Dec. 31, 2022, according to City Manager Paul Lolli.

However, the property has a new mortgage taken out in 2022, public records show.

Rodgers’ name appears on the signature line as the executive director for Middletown Area Senior Citizens Inc. for a $450,000 mortgage taken out in July 2022 at First Financial Bank against the facility and property at 3907 Central Avenue, according to online records at the Butler County Recorder’s Office.

Her name also appears on the signature line of a mortgage modification less than six months later, for another $200,000 on Dec. 31, 2022, to total $650,000, related records show.

In early May, a $266,594.52 lien also was placed on the senior center building and land.

William H. Roe, vice president of DER Development Co., LLC of Milford, a general contracting, property development and construction management firm, is named in a sworn statement to obtain the lien claiming that the money owed plus interest, according to documents on the Butler County Recorder Office’s website.

The senior center underwent a $900,000 renovation from June 2022 to February 2023 to transform into a recreation center for seniors.

Part of the facility also can be rented out for events such as weddings, according to its website.

Grants and the center’s general fund paid for the majority of the project, about $675,000, city records show. City officials confirm to FOX19 NOW that community block grants from federal funding provided nearly $300,000 in 2021 and 2022.

Renovations wrapped up in time for a ribbon-cutting ceremony by year’s end.

FOX19 NOW recently requested comments from every single board member and their chairman at Central Connections Senior Center.

Not a single one responded.

Middletown Mayor Nicole Condrey has said proper background checks weren’t done when Rodgers was hired.

It was just run in Ohio.

Rodgers, 50, was living in Reno, Nevada, when she was hired in November 2021.

She also formerly lived in California, where FOX19 NOW has confirmed she was criminally charged in 2006 with multiple counts of financial crimes such as forgery by altering a check, grand theft, burglary and making or passing a fictitious check.

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