Former SEMO women's basketball coach arrested in multi-state car theft conspiracy

B.J. Smith
B.J. Smith

ST. LOUIS, MO (KFVS) - A former Southeast Missouri State University women's basketball coach has been arrested by federal authorities in a multi-state car theft conspiracy that involves more than 100 vehicles.

William (B.J.) Smith, 48, of Highland, Kansas is one of 16 people who were arrested on a federal indictment charging 21 defendants involved in a multi-state car theft conspiracy.

Smith coached at SEMO and then ran his own basketball academy in Cape Girardeau. Smith resigned on December 1, 2006 almost one month after he was placed on paid administrative leave by the university for personal reasons. This was also after an NCAA investigation into the women's basketball program.

He led the lady Redhawks to their first ever trip to the NCAA Division 1 tournament. He coached four seasons at SEMO.

Highland Community College Athletic Director Greg Delzeit says Smith is the current coach of the HCC women's basketball team in Highland, Kansas.

The conspiracy is alleged to have used several different schemes to steal and misappropriate vehicles, commit bank fraud in order to obtain vehicles, and obtain insurance proceeds by staging accidents and filing false theft reports.

The indictment alleges that the defendants stole luxury automobiles, SUVs, and pickup trucks from individuals and automobile dealerships in the Eastern District of Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana, vehicles that they transported to the Eastern District of Missouri.

According to the FBI, they disabled any tracking systems, like OnStar, on the stolen vehicles so that they could not be traced by law enforcement.

The "straw" purchasers are accused of making false statements on loan applications and submitted fraudulent earnings statements to obtain loans to buy the typically high-end vehicles.

The defendants used and then sold or disposed of the vehicles, while the loan defaulted, either immediately or after a short payment history, according to the FBI.

According to the indictment, they also practiced fraud related to the titling of vehicles, obtaining by false statements apparently legitimate ownership to vehicles they had stolen from individuals.

On many occasions, the suspect are accused of falsely claiming to have done repair work that was not actually performed on the vehicles submitted to their businesses.

More than 100 vehicles have been identified as being involved in the criminal activity. Investigators believe many more were actually involved.

Charges include conspiracy, bank fraud, mail fraud, and receipt of stolen motor vehicle. If convicted, these charges carry penalties ranging from five to 30 years in prison and/or fines up to $1 million.

Those arrest on April 23:

  • Shahadu Sutton, 38, St. Louis
  • Tiffany Sutton, 38, St. Louis
  • Orlando Preston, 38, St. Louis
  • William Smith, 48, Highland, Kansas
  • Robert Reece, 40, St. Louis
  • John Hicks, 30, St. Louis
  • Reginald Davis, 30, Florissant, Missouri
  • Steven Pirtle, 45, St. Louis
  • Sheldon Mitchell, 42, Ballwin, Missouri
  • Chester Wilson, 41, St. Louis
  • Arvis Dunbar, 47, St. Louis
  • Eugene Dunbar, 63, St. Louis
  • Michael Smith, 40, Florissant, Missouri
  • Terrelle Marion, 46, Florissant, Missouri
  • Jermaine Gamble, 32, in custody
  • Joseph Pearson, 38, St. Louis area

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Postal Inspection Service, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, St. Louis County Police Department, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Maplewood Police Department, Missouri Department of Revenue, and other municipal police departments, with assistance from the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Assistant United States Attorneys John Ware and Stephen Casey are handling the case for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

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