MIDDLETOWN — Even though a Middletown detective testified the signature on the defendant’s court document didn’t appear to match those on the seven bounced checks, the case against the husband of the former executive director of Central Connections was bound over to a Butler County grand jury.
Vincent “Scott” Smith, 56, of Sabina, was charged with seven counts of passing bad checks, all felonies, according to the Middletown Division of Police and court records.
Smith appeared Wednesday morning for his preliminary hearing before Middletown Municipal Court Judge James Sherron.
Smith’s attorney, Christopher Deal, presented a pre-trial release form that was signed by Smith. The signature on that paper didn’t appear to match Smith’s signature on the bounced checks that totaled $56,300, Middletown detective Patrick Glassburn said when questioned.
Despite this evidence, Sherron bound the case to a grand jury for a possible indictment.
Glassburn, when asked by Prosecutor Zach Barnhart, testified that seven checks were written to Central Connections, Middletown’s senior citizens center, on Smith’s personal checking account and the checks were returned by First National Bank for insufficient funds.
The checks were written between June 1, 2022 and June 23, 2023, according to the court document. The check amounts ranged from $2,800 to $15,000, according to documents. Smith allegedly was attempting to return money taken from the Central Connections account, Sgt. Earl Nelson has said.
Sherron set Smith’s bond at $5,000, or 10% during his arraignment last month. Smith posted bond and was released from jail.
Smith’s wife, Diane Rodgers, was terminated on July 27 from her position at Central Connections and is the target of criminal investigations regarding finances at the center, according to police Chief David Birk. No criminal charges against Rodgers have been filed and the investigation is ongoing, he said.
Rodgers hasn’t been seen publicly since she was terminated by the Central Connections board of directors and escorted out of the building by Middletown police.
Three women affiliated with Central Connections attended Wednesday’s hearing. They plan to follow the case throughout, they said.
Sharon Collier, a Central Connections member, called the case “the most monumental thing I’ve ever seen, or witnessed or been any kind of part of. It affected so many people. It’s amazing how things happened and what was allowed to happen by the people who were governing her.”
Collier believes as police continue to investigate the possible thefts at Central Connections, they will charge more people than just Smith. Collier called him “the little penny in the pot. More will come. More will come.”
Jeanne Terry, an instructor at Central Connections, said some members now attend her classes at other facilities.
Marilyn Easterly, another member, said the senior center “never will be the same.” She put most on the blame on the 13 board members who refused to listen to the concerns of the members after Rodgers was hired.
“We tried very hard to draw attention to what was going on,” Easterly said. “But they were more impressed with what she said she was doing than the actual affects.”
Central Connections: Timeline
Nov. 6, 2012: Middletown taxpayers pass a five-year, 1-mill levy to provide or maintain senior services at the Middletown Area Senior Center.
Aug. 16, 2015: The name of the Middletown Area Senior Center is changed to Central Connections.
May 2, 2017: Middletown taxpayers renew a five-year, 1-mill levy to provide or maintain senior services at the center.
November 2021: Diane Rodgers is hired as executive director. She says she moved from Reno, Nev., where she oversaw a senior center and worked with the homeless population, to be closer to her daughter who lives in New York.
July 29, 2022: Rodgers signs for a mortgage loan through First Financial Bank for $450,000, then does a loan modification that increases the amount to $650,000, according to the Butler County Recorder’s Office. Her signature and job title are listed on the loan that matures on July 29, 2024.
Nov. 1, 2022: Ribbon-cutting is held to celebrate the $1.5 million in renovations of Central Connections, 3907 Central Ave.
Dec. 31, 2022: Senior citizens center levy expires after generating $7 million over 10 years.
May 5, 2023: D.E.R. Development Co. files a lien against Central Connections, saying the company is owed $266,594.52, plus allowable interest.
May 31, 2023: Rodgers files vandalism report at Central Connections. Middletown police say that leads to the investigation of center’s finances.
July 24, 2023: The Council on Aging terminates its three-year contract with Central Connections. Fifty employees are laid off.
July 25, 2023: Nearly 75 senior citizens and former and current employees of Central Connections attend a meeting in the café with Rick Fishbaugh, board president, and Rodgers.
July 27, 2023: Rodgers is terminated as executive director of Central Connections and escorted out of the building by Middletown police.
Aug. 3, 2023: During a special City Council meeting and after an executive session, City Manager Paul Lolli announces council has agreed to move forward with the possible purchase of the Central Connections building and land and for an unknown amount that will come out of the city’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) fund.
Aug. 5, 2023: In an email to the Journal-News, attorney Tyrone Borger, who is representing Rodgers, writes that he and his client 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.”
Aug. 9, 2023: Middletown Police Chief David Birk says his department is working with the Ohio attorney general’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation into the criminal investigation into the finances of Central Connections.
Aug. 11, 2023: Central Connections announces more layoff and the closing of the cafe and bar. The hours are reduced to 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Aug. 15, 2023: City Council votes unanimously to allow City Manager Paul Lolli to enter into a lease agreement with Central Connections. The lease is $50 per month. By the end of 2023, the city has the right to purchase the building and property for $1.8 million.
Aug. 21, 2023: Vincent “Scott” Smith, husband of the former executive director, arrested and charged with seven counts of passing bad checks, all felonies.
Aug. 23, 2023: Smith appears in Middletown Municipal Court for his arraignment. Judge James Sherron sets Smith’s OR bond at $5,000.
Sept. 6, 2023: A Middletown detective testifies that Smith’s signature on the seven bounced checks doesn’t match his signature on a court document. The charges against Smith are bound over to a Butler County grand jury by Middletown Municipal Court Judge James Sherron.