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Press Release

State Senator Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy and Theft Charges

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

A state senator pleaded guilty today to conspiracy and theft crimes, announced United States Attorney Matthew Schneider.

Joining Schneider in the announcement were Jeffery E. Peterson, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Detroit Division of the FBI and Manny Muriel, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation.

Pleading guilty was Bertram Johnson, Jr., 44, of Highland Park, Michigan

According to court records, 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.

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. 

“Public officials, especially those elected by the people, cannot treat the people’s money as their own,” stated United States Attorney 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.”

“This investigation and subsequent plea reinforces the FBI’s commitment to hold public officials accountable by exposing those who engage in criminal conduct at taxpayer expense,” said Jeffery E. Peterson, Acting Special Agent in Charge of FBI Detroit. “We ask that anyone who has information regarding similar actions by any public official contact Detroit or their nearest FBI field office.”

“Senator Johnson made a conscious decision to violate the trust and confidence of the constituents that he was elected to represent,” stated Special Agent in Charge Manny J. Muriel, IRS Criminal Investigation.  “As today’s 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 penalty of ten years in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced on August 7, 2018.

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 Lee Carlson

Updated March 2, 2018

Public Corruption