- Associated Press - Thursday, July 3, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) - The women’s basketball coach at Highland Community College in northeast Kansas, who once coached at Southeast Missouri State University, was sentenced to three years of probation for his part in a car theft ring that used several illegal schemes to collect insurance money.

William J. Smith, 49, of Highland, Kansas, was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in St. Louis for five counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy. He was also ordered to pay almost $160,000 in restitution.

Prosecutors contend Smith is one of 21 people who stole luxury vehicles from individuals and dealerships in Missouri, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. More than 120 vehicles were involved in schemes to stage accidents and file false theft reports, The St. Joseph News-Press reported (http://bit.ly/1rnse76 ).

Prosecutors said the ring also obtained some vehicles by making false statements on loan applications and submitting fraudulent earnings statements to obtain loans. The defendants used and then sold or disposed of the vehicles while the loan defaulted.

Smith pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy and to obtaining fraudulent transfer titles from the Osage Nation for five vehicles, which allowed the vehicles to be resold. Other counts of mail fraud and receipt of stolen vehicles were dropped as part of the plea agreement.

Smith was the women’s basketball coach at Highland Community College for three years, with an overall record of 85-13. His team was second in the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Division II championship tournament in March.

Smith coached four seasons at Southeast Missouri State and led the Lady Redhawks to their first NCAA tournament. He resigned in 2006 after he was placed on paid administrative leave for personal reasons. There was also an NCAA investigation into the women’s basketball program.

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Information from: St. Joseph News-Press/St. Joe, Missouri, http://www.newspressnow.com