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Press Release

State Senator Indicted on Conspiracy and Theft Charges

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Michigan

Today a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging a state senator with conspiracy and theft crimes, announced Acting United States Attorney Daniel L. Lemisch.


Joining Lemisch in the announcement were David P. Gelios, Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Manny Muriel, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation.


Charged was Bertram Johnson, Jr., 43, of Highland Park, Michigan


The two-count indictment charges that from approximately March 2014 through January 2015, Johnson, Jr., a Senator for the State of Michigan, conspired to commit theft, and did commit theft, of monies under the care, custody, and control of the State of Michigan.


According to the indictment, 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 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.


“Theft of taxpayer’s money by elected public officials, as these charges allege, is disheartening and will not be tolerated" Lemisch said.


"Today’s indictment is an unfortunate reminder that public officials sometimes squander the public’s trust in exchange for personal gain", said David P. Gelios, Special Agent in Charge, Detroit Division of the FBI. “Rooting out public corruption at all levels of government is an investigative priority of the FBI.”


“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


This case was investigated by agents of the FBI and IRS-CI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys J. Michael Buckley and Frances Carlson.


If convicted on all charges, Johnson faces a statutory maximum penalty of ten years in prison.


An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated April 11, 2017

Public Corruption