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State senator awaits sentencing for conspiracy, theft

Bertram Johnson will be sentenced this summer.

(NEWSORIA) – A state senator from Michigan faces a decade behind bars after pleading guilty to conspiracy and theft crimes earlier this month.

Bertram Johnson Jr., 44, of Highland Park pleaded guilty March 2.

According to court records, from approximately March 2014 through January 2015, Johnson conspired to commit theft, and stole cash under the care, custody, and control of the State of Michigan.

Johnson borrowed thousands of dollars in cash from an unnamed co-conspirator, and later placed that co-conspirator on the public payroll as a member of his staff, knowing that the co-conspirator was a “ghost employee” who contributed no work on behalf of Johnson’s staff, the FBI reports.

The indictment alleges that Johnson placed this “ghost employee” on the public payroll solely to pay off Johnson’s personal loan debt, and that the ghost employee was paid over $23,000 in taxpayer money.

“Public officials, especially those elected by the people, cannot treat the people’s money as their own,” stated United States Attorney Matthew Schneider. “The defendant in this case treated taxpayer money as his own, to repay his personal debt. Such an egregious abuse of power will not be tolerated.”

Special Agent Jeffery E. Peterson of the FBI said the plea “reinforces the FBI’s commitment to hold public officials accountable by exposing those who engage in criminal conduct at taxpayer expense.”

Peterson added that anyone with information about similar alleged actions by public officials are urged to contact the Detroit FBI or the nearest field office.

This case was investigated by the FBI and the  Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service.

“Senator Johnson made a conscious decision to violate the trust and confidence of the constituents that he was elected to represent,” said IRS Special Agent Manny Muriel said. “As (the) guilty plea shows, IRS-CI, along with our law enforcement partners, will continue to hold those who use fraud and deceit to line their pockets by stealing from our nation’s taxpayers accountable.”

Johnson faces a statutory maximum of 10 years in in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. N.


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