The owner of a now-defunct lawn service company with a checkered past in The Villages found himself behind bars in Marion County recently.
Kenneth Wayne Smith, 59, of Ocala, was picked up on warrants Monday, July 1 and released early the following morning on $4,000 bond. He was charged with two counts of fraud/insufficient funds on two checks he had written and grand theft from a warrant filed by the Fruitland Park Police Department earlier this year. The checks involved in the case were written for $150 or more, jail records show.
Smith has a long history of issues with services provided to Villagers through his former lawn service company, Service Smart Inc., with more than 300 complaints file against him with Seniors vs. Crime. He dissolved the company, which was located at 530 NW 1st Ave. in Ocala, on Sept. 22, 2017, according to the Florida Division of Corporations, and apparently continued to do work in The Villages after that date. He was working as a salesperson for Good Neighbors Landscape when he was arrested, a Marion County Sheriff’s Office report states.
The Fruitland Park Police Department had its share of dealings with Smith, starting in August 2018 when a detective met with a Village of Pine Ridge resident who said she had paid a deposit of $1,473 to Service Smart for work that hadn’t been done. She said she wanted pavers installed at her house and when Smith told her they were a special order and the cost would be higher, she requested her money back and hadn’t received it.
The Villager said that after several months of attempting to get a refund, her daughter confronted Smith while he was working in the Village of Fenney and he gave her four $500 checks for the refund. The checks weren’t made out to anyone and the woman said she was uncomfortable putting her name on them, a police report states.
The detective spent several months attempting to contact Smith and finally spoke with him in December 2018. Smith said he thought the matter had been resolved, but when told the checks weren’t made out to anyone, he said his secretary must have forgotten to put the Villager’s name on them, the report says.
Smith met with the detective this past January and he claimed the name was left blank on the checks because he didn’t know who to make them out to. He promised to reimburse the Villager with a cashiers check as soon as possible, the report says.
At the end of January, when the Villager still hadn’t been reimbursed, the detective spoke with Smith again. He said he thought his secretary had mailed out the checks and he would take care of it. And he assured the detective the checks would be mailed, the report says.
On Feb. 19, when the Villager said she still hadn’t been reimbursed, the detective attempted to get a warrant for Smith’s arrest. But an assistant state attorney said the case appeared to be civil in nature, so the detective spoke with the Villager and she said she pursue the matter in civil court.
Meanwhile, in August 2018, the detective also responded to another home in the Village of Pine Hills where a Villager had a similar complaint. The resident said he had given Smith an $800 deposit in December 2017 for lawn work that still hadn’t been started. And he said he had made multiple attempts to speak with Smith to find out when the work would be started but wasn’t getting any return phone calls, a police report states, adding that homeowner also had attempted to get a refund in February 2018.
The detective spoke with Smith several times and first said the Villager canceled the service order, then said he had been so busy he forgot to reimburse the man’s deposit. Smith met with the detective at the police department this past Jan. 7 and he promised to take care of the refund. When it hadn’t been taken care of by Jan. 29, the detective contacted Smith again and he said he thought his secretary had sent the refund and he promised to take care of it that day, the report says.
On Feb. 21, when the Villager still hadn’t received his money, the detective obtained an arrest warrant for Smith, the report says.