By David Collins
BALTIMORE (WBAL) — A Baltimore Schools Police officer and Dunbar High School’s football coach was arrested Friday morning, the 11 News I-Team has learned.
Lawrence Smith, 49, of Perry Hall, was arrested Friday morning on federal wire fraud charges.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Maryland, the charges stem from allegations that Smith fraudulently obtained more than $215,000 in overtime pay and that he tried to avoid paying federal income taxes and filed a false tax return.
“I feel for the school, I feel for the team, I feel for the community, I feel for the young men and young ladies that looked up to this man,” east Baltimore resident Damion Haskins said.
Smith has an initial appearance at 2:15 p.m. Friday in federal court in downtown Baltimore.
Prosecutors said Smith began working as a Baltimore City School Police officer in 2005 and was promoted in 2016 to detective and put in charge of the School Police Overtime Unit, where he coordinated and scheduled officer overtime, including his own.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Smith worked security at COVID-19 testing and food sites at city schools and rec centers, as well as the COVID-19 hospital and homeless shelter, for which he received overtime.
According to the indictment, Smith fraudulently received overtime pay for hours he didn’t work from January 2019 through August 2022. The indictment alleges Smith used his management position to assign himself overtime shifts.
Prosecutors said Smith was at home, running personal errands, at other locations socializing, coaching football and out of state on vacation when he claimed to be working in person.
The indictment seeks a money judgment of $215,352, alleged to be the proceeds of the fraud scheme.
Community members reacted to the news.
“It’s a travesty to the kids, as their coach. They are supposed to be like a second dad,” Baltimore resident Joseph Holland said.
The indictment also alleges Smith submitted W-4 tax forms falsely claiming that he was exempt from federal income tax withholding when he was not entitled to claim exempt status. The indictment alleges Smith failed to file individual income tax returns for 2017, 2019 and 2020, and to report his wages and other income to the IRS. The indictment alleges Smith also filed a false individual tax return for tax year 2018.
“It’s very tragic to hear this news, but right is right and wrong is wrong,” Haskins said.
“He was a good coach. He participated with the kids and concentrated on academics,” one resident named Jermaine said.
Smith has a winning record as a a football coach. The Baltimore Ravens gave him a High School Coach of the Year Award twice.
Dunbar suspended him from coaching in 2013 after a hazing incident. He later appealed that suspension and won.
If convicted, Smith faces as much as 20 years in federal prison for each count of wire fraud, a maximum of five years for each count of attempting to evade taxes, and a maximum of three years in federal prison for filing a false tax return.
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