DETROIT (WWJ) – Michigan Sen. Bert Johnson has been indicted on conspiracy and theft charges.
The U.S. Attorneys Office says Johnson, 43, is accused of using his office to pay off debt by hiring a so-called “ghost employee” — and putting him or her on the payroll as a “Community Liaison.”
That person was allegedly paid more than $23,000, yet “contributed no work on behalf of Johnson’s staff,” according to the indictment. The alleged co-conspirator was not immediately named by authorities.
This case was investigated by FBI and IRS-CI agents who raided Johnson’s Highland Park home last month, carrying out boxes and computer equipment.
“Senator Johnson’s alleged actions abused the trust of his constituents and amounted to simple theft,” said IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Manny Muriel of the Detroit Field Office. “It is in these cases that the IRS takes particular interest in individuals, allegedly abusing the power they have been entrusted with – for their own personal benefit. This investigation exemplifies interagency collaboration and the United States’ commitment to combat the abuse of power and to elevate transparency and accountability.”
Johnson’s attorney Cyril Hall attorney said Tuesday he’s saddened to hear about the indictment.
“…The investigating that we’ve been conduction clearly indicates that he had not committed any criminal offence,” Hall said. “And I trust that we’ll make every effort to vindicate ourselves in a court of law.”
“I don’t see, based on what we looked at and who worked for him, he has not had any ghost employees,” Hall added.
Johnson represents the state’s Second District, which includes Highland Park, Hamtramck, northeast Detroit, Harper Woods and the five Grosse Pointe communities.
If convicted on all charges, he faces a statutory maximum penalty of ten years in prison.
It’s unclear at this time if Johnson will continue his work in the Michigan legislature amid coming legal proceedings, but Hall said he will encourage him to do so.