WEST CHESTER TWP., Ohio - A judge Tuesday found restaurant owner Liz Rogers guilty of impersonating a police officer when a repo man tried to take the Mercedes she was driving last March.
Judge Dan Haughey suspended Rogers' 30-day sentence for the misdemeanor, fined her $150 and put her on one year of community control. After the verdict, Rogers insisted she was innocent and said she was eager to get on with her life.
"Everything that I have going on is business as usual," Rogers said. "This is just another bump in the road that is pretty much behind me."
Rogers, who owned the failed Mahogany's on The Banks restaurant, waived her right to a jury trial and took her chances with a bench trial. In the end, Haughey said that the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Rogers was trying to get out of having her husband's car repossessed and that's why she displayed a badge to the repo man.
During the one-day trial, a former manager of Title Max testified that Rogers' husband, Trent, paid off the nearly $10,000 car loan about two hours after the repo man tried to take it.
The repo man, Dustin Ohmart of National Asset Recovery Specialists, blocked in Rogers' car at the UDF on Hamilton-Mason Road on March 17. He testified that Rogers said she was a police officer, showed him a badge and said she had to drive home to secure her weapon. He said he followed her home but she pulled into the garage and the door closed. Then he called police.
Rogers denied saying she was a police officer. She testified that she carried a commemorative badge in her wallet in honor of her sister, a Cleveland police officer injured in a car crash. She said she gave the wallet – with her driver's license inside – to the repo man as a show of "good faith." She said her husband could clear up the matter after they drove to her house.
Rogers' defense attorney, Clyde Bennett II, said Liz Rogers thought the car was paid off. Bennett said Ohmart was upset that he didn't get his car and that there was nothing to prove she claimed to be a cop.
Butler County Prosecutor Brad Burress argued that the only explanation that made sense was Rogers portraying herself as a cop carrying a small badge in her wallet. Burress referred to a taped phone call that Rogers made to West Chester Police Officer Dustin Parrett that was played in court.
"She also told Officer Parrett in that interview that you heard, 'If you impersonate a police officer, you're a criminal.' Your Honor, that's exactly what Liz Rogers did that morning," Burress said.
Mahogany’s closed in October, 2014 after Rogers repeatedly failed to meet lease payments. Rogers agreed to repay the city of Cincinnati one-third of the $300,000 it loaned her to open the restaurant at The Banks. She did not have to repay the $640,000 grant she got from the city.