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Smith was staying at a Residence Inn off Interstate 435 in Kansas. As he walked to his car, he noticed that all four of his tires were flat. He stood there for a minute. "You know what time it is," he says. The agents arrested him.
He was convicted in early 1995 on a multi-count indictment. The feds got him for bank fraud and theft/receipt of stolen mail. Missouri got him for forgery and fraud. He served five years and three months, most of the sentence in Missouri state prisons and several federal facilities.
Smith was born in Kansas City. His family moved around but mostly lived south of Oklahoma City in the Lawton area before coming back to Kansas City when he was 6. His parents divorced almost immediately.
Smith lived off 79th Street with his mother and went to John T. Hartman Elementary School. He calls it the poor end of Waldo. His mother worked a couple of jobs.
"It wasn't as traumatic as it could have been, didn't get as bad as it could have been, but it was bad enough," Smith says of the neighbor who befriended and then molested him. "It was bad enough that I honestly did have moments where he was in more jeopardy than he was aware of."
But that wasn't why he grew up to be a criminal.
"I don't blame any of that shit for the way I turned out. I don't think it had anything to do with it. Maybe if I was out cutting the legs off puppies or pulling the wings off flies, or something, yeah. But I wasn't. I was making a lot more [money] a lot quicker than I could honestly, and that's why I got into crime."
Smith says his slide started when he began skipping school. He hated school. Because of truancy, he ended up in a group home at 27th Street and Gillham. Smith ran away. He was sent to the McCune School for Boys. He kept running away from the group homes until he was sent to the Training School for Boys in Boonville, Missouri, where there was nowhere to run.
He had only an eighth-grade education by the time he ended up in Boonville. He calls it "gladiator school," a training ground for criminals that was "rougher than the actual prison." But he says he got his GED there and left in 1975.
Back in Kansas City, he picked up where he had left off. By the late '70s, he was living among the hookers, strip joints and bars around Linwood and Main (a neighborhood that would later be razed for Home Depot and Costco). Back then, Smith says, people didn't run the risk of randomly getting shot and killed.
Smith ran the check scheme in the late '70s and early '80s. He says he would open a couple of accounts and put a couple of hundred dollars in each, then run a few checks through each account. Then he would write a check from account A for, say, $5,000 and deposit it in account B. Then he would write a check from account B for, say, $8,000 and deposit it in account A. He would keep floating the checks to build up false balances on the accounts.
He was arrested a couple of times for the scams and got probation, he says.
Smith quit forging checks and started a loan scam. He knew a woman who was a billing officer for a big company and who could get people's banking information. Taking on someone else's identity, he would approach a loan officer, knowing how much money was in that person's account. He would say he needed a $20,000 loan so he could buy a $40,000 boat — and he needed the money right away. He would tell the loan officer that if the bank wouldn't loan him the money, he would take money out of his account and make a cash payment on the boat.