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Ex-worker gets prison for stealing from client

Disabled victim loved caregiver, sister says

Gary-Smotherman

Smotherman

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John Abood was the perfect victim, his sister said.

Born with Williams syndrome, Mr. Abood has a very low IQ, trouble with the most basic math, and is very friendly and trusting — all symptoms of the rare genetic disorder.

So, when his siblings realized the 59-year-old man had no money in his checking account and extensive overdraft fees, they knew someone likely had taken advantage of Mr. Abood’s trust.

A former Anne Grady Center employee once assigned to help Mr. Abood buy his groceries and pay his bills was sentenced Monday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court. Gary Smotherman, 39, of 146 Rosalind Pl. was sentenced to 17 months in prison and ordered to pay $6,500 in restitution.

“What makes this crime so offensive and so much more than just a theft is the way in which Smotherman took advantage of the position of trust in which he had been placed to then steal from the very person whom it was his job to protect,” said Mr. Abood’s sister, Trish Branam, who emotionally appealed to Judge Ruth Ann Franks that a message be sent about stealing from those who cannot take care of themselves.

“As if that isn’t enough, the horrendous nature of this theft is compounded further by the loss and betrayal that John felt when he was told that Gary Smotherman, whom he had grown to love and trust, had been stealing from him,” she said.

Smotherman pleaded guilty Oct. 24 to one count of theft from a disabled adult.

Because of a change in the law, what once was a third-degree felony because of the amount stolen became a fourth-degree felony.

Judge Franks, who admonished Smotherman for taking advantage of an absolute trust, sentenced him to one month shy of the maximum.

According to the indictment, the thefts occurred between January, 2010, and January, 2011, and were accomplished in several ways, including writing numerous checks to the victim from Mr. Abood’s checking account and then taking the money.

Mr. Abood, the brother of retired appellate Judge Charles Abood, was living with two other men in a supported-living home at the time.

Smotherman was one of two former Anne Grady employees recently charged for thefts from their clients. Also facing charges is Gregory Henry, 50, of Maumee, who is to go to trial next Tuesday on four counts of theft from an elderly person or disabled adult. He is accused of taking nearly $35,000 from four victims.

Authorities said Mr. Henry worked as a supervisor in the agency’s supported living section, which provides services for those living in group homes.

The charges — and Smotherman’s subsequent conviction — were the result of an investigation by the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities and the Senior Protection Unit of the county prosecutor’s office. Authorities said the victims were all people the men were supposed to help live as independently as possible.

In particular, both men were employed to help those living in a group-home setting manage their finances.

Attorney John Thebes told Judge Franks it was not an addiction or illegal activity that fueled Smotherman’s thefts, but his inability to make ends meet with a large family.

“It’s universally accepted that this kind of behavior is unacceptable,” Mr. Thebes said, noting Smotherman had four biological children and four more of which he had custody. “… He’s was overextended … and when confronted, he admitted what he did and gave $1,200 up front in restitution.”

Mr. Thebes declined to comment further after the sentencing.

Smotherman apologized in court for his actions.

Ms. Branam said after the sentencing she was pleased the judge sent a message to those who betray those persons with disabilities and their families.

“We were doing this not just for John, but for all families in this situation,” she said. “We are so grateful to Judge Franks for understanding the dynamics of what this is.”

Contact Erica Blake at: eblake@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.

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