July 16–DECATUR — James P. Smith, who was arrested and released on bond last month for allegedly stealing more than $57,000 from a senior couple, is back in jail on charges of stealing $99,000 from two more unrelated victims.
A fifth alleged victim was meeting with officials on Friday, which could lead to more charges against the Mount Zion man, who will turn 60 on Saturday.
A sixth possible victim called the Macon County State’s Attorney’s Office on Friday, to discuss another case.
Smith is being held in jail on $200,000 bond, requiring $20,000 cash bail to be released.
The Macon County State’s Attorney’s office is applying a seldom used statute in an attempt to freeze Smith’s assets and gain restitution for the victims.
Smith was arrested June 23, for allegedly stealing $57,875 from an 86-year-old man and his wife, while serving as power of attorney for the husband from December 2013 to October 2015. He allegedly wrote checks from the victims’ accounts in that case, which he used to make mortgage payments, pay an attorney’s fee, give money to a relative and withdraw cash.
He was released from jail the following day, after posting $5,000 cash bail.
In that case, six felony counts were filed against Smith: two counts each of aggravated identity theft, theft over $10,000 and financial exploitation of the elderly. His arraignment in that case is scheduled for July 26.
After a Herald & Review account of this arrest was published, two other victims came forward, women 80 and 87 years old, claiming they were also victimized by Smith. They were both clients of Smith’s, who worked as a life insurance agent out of a Forsyth office.
On Wednesday, Smith was arrested in those cases. He was charged with four felony counts in the case of the 80-year-old victim, from whom he allegedly stole $31,974.00; and two felony counts for allegedly stealing $58,049 from the 87-year-old woman.
Smith is due in court July 22 to present his attorney for all his cases.
Prosecutors moved forward Friday in their efforts to gain restitution from Smith for his victims. Smith was served in jail with “written demands for return of property,” court documents which were signed by the victims and notarized.
Each document states that either Smith pays the entire amount that he stole from that victim within 60 days, or he will be liable to pay three times that sum.
As an example, in the case of the 87-year-old woman, to whom he owes $58,049. Smith would have to pay her $174,147 after Sept. 13 if a judge rules at a hearing in her favor.
Assistant State’s Attorney Nichole Kroncke said the state statute her office is applying to gain restitution has not been previously used in the county, and she does not know if it has been used elsewhere.
“We want to use every tool available to us in financial crimes to the elderly,” Kroncke said.
Even if Smith is acquitted at a trial, he could still be liable to pay the restitution if a judge rules against him on that issue. The standard for finding him liable for restitution is a preponderance of evidence, a lower standard than the standard necessary to convict him of the crimes, which is beyond a reasonable doubt.
Petitions were filed Friday in circuit court, asking a judge to freeze Smith’s assets, which include his house, 26 acres of rural Decatur farmland, a 2004 Dodge pickup truck and a John Deere tractor.
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