In the following press release Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason announced that Attorney Cynthia D. Smith was indicted for stealing $100,000 from the Eternal Security Baptist Church and for stealing $78,000 from a probate estate.
Smith, 53, whose business address is 11811 Shaker Blvd., was hired by the congregation of Eternal Security Baptist Church in the fall of 2005 to represent the church in selling its property for $135,000 to Cleveland Municipal School District. The congregation intended to use the proceeds to construct a smaller church.
The sale was closed on February 10, 2006. After expenses, the balance from the sale was $132, 303, which was transferred by the escrow account agent to Smith’s client trust fund. Smith returned $32,303 to the church, as agreed, and the church requested that she keep the remaining $100,000 in her trust fund to be used to pay for the new construction costs.
The congregation requested confirmation from Smith that the $100,000 remained in her client trust fund account. When the congregation became concerned with the answers provided by her, they filed a complaint with the Cleveland Bar Association. An investigation revealed the $100,000 was no longer in Smith’s client trust fund account and that she had spent this money for other purposes. A criminal complaint was then filed with the Cleveland Police Department, and an investigation was conducted by the Financial Crimes Unit.
Attorney Smith stole from another client involving a client trust fund. In May 2005 she was hired by a representative of the probate estate that was being administered in Connecticut to sell the decedent’s property located in Cleveland. Smith attended to the sale of that property and deposited the net proceeds of the sale, $78,772.14, into her client trust account for payment to the probate estate. However, Smith used these funds for other purposes, and despite repeated demands to do so, failed to pay the estate. Ten months later when Smith received the sale proceeds from the Eternal Security Baptist Church sale, she used the church’s $100,000 to pay the amount due to the probate estate.