By William R. Levesque, St. Petersburg Times
Published: May 20, 2000

A co-defendant in one of the largest insurance scams in recent Pinellas history raises restitution money and gets house arrest.

Kevin J. Smith came to court Friday expecting he would be led away in shackles to spend the next 15 months in prison.

Instead, he headed home.

After managing to raise $25,000 in restitution for the victims of an insurance scam he participated in, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Lauren Laughlin sentenced Smith to two years of house arrest followed by 13 years’ probation.

When he pleaded no contest to racketeering and grand theft charges March 13, Smith did so with the understanding that his sentence would be about 15 months, said his attorneys, Frank and Joe McDermott.

But Laughlin was swayed to move away from prison time after Smith managed to come up with the restitution by borrowing from friends and family.

Laughlin agreed to allow Smith to have his house arrest transferred to his native Illinois.

Smith cooperated with prosecutors in their investigation of a large insurance scam headed by Gregory Wayne Peck and Thomas J. Martin, Smith’s father-in-law.

Peck, 44, and Martin, 64, pleaded guilty in January to stealing more than $600,000 from about 30 elderly Pinellas residents in what prosecutors called one of the largest schemes of its kind in recent county history.

Laughlin sentenced Peck to 12 years in prison followed by 20 years’ probation. Martin was sentenced to six years in prison.

Smith, who would have testified against his former partners had they not pleaded guilty, still owes $85,000 more in restitution.

Prosecutors accused the men of writing policies, collecting cash payments and then throwing them in drawers.

They scammed residents from 1989 to 1994. Most of the victims have since died.