Former Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce office manager Jeanie Kay Johnson, who pleaded guilty in June to charges in connection with her alleged embezzlement of more than $200,000, has been sentenced to 36-months of probation and ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution.
Johnson Charged With 15 Felonies, Pleads Guilty to Three
Johnson was originally charged with 15 felonies in connection with the alleged embezzlement, including engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity, theft, communications fraud and obstructing justice. However, as part of a plea agreement, Johnson pleaded guilty to only three felony counts: reduced third-degree felony counts of theft and communications fraud, and third-degree felony obstruction of justice. The other twelve remaining counts were dismissed.
Johnson Embezzled More Than $200k, Covered Up Fraud
Johnson was hired as an office manager by the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce in 2005. Prosecutors say that between February 2011 and December 2013, Johnson embezzled more than $200,000 from the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce. Johnson then hid the missing money for a number of years by providing false financial reports to the Chamber’s Board of Directors. According to prosecutors, when discrepancies were discovered in the Chamber’s financial reports, Johnson logged into the Chamber’s computer system and deleted the faulty financial information in order to cover up her fraud.
Johnson Fired Following Investigation, Chamber Vows New Controls Will Prevent Similar Problem in the Future
After the Chamber undertook an investigation into Johnson’s alleged embezzlement, the Chamber fired Johnson and instituted a number of changes to its financial policies and procedures. The Chamber said in the wake of the investigation into Johnson that it “is confident its financial situation is sound and secure with the new controls in place to ensure the proper care and handling of funds contributed by its members and sponsors.”
Johnson Pleads Guilty to 3 Felony Counts, Remaining 12, Including UPUAA charges Dismissed
As noted, Johnson agreed to plead guilty to three felonies in exchange for the government agreeing to drop the remaining 12 felony counts against her, which included 11 counts of communications fraud and one count of engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity. Prior to her guilty plea hearing, a statement of defendant in support of guilty plea was filed with the court. As part of the statement in advance of plea, Johnson agreed to the following elements of the crimes for which she was pleading guilty:
In Utah County, Utah, on or about January 1, 2011 and October 1, 2015, I defrauded my employer by submitting financial reports I knew to be incorrect. The amount to which the financial reports where incorrect exceeded $5,000. Additionally, on December 10, 2015, I deleted or destroyed documents regarding the financial reports. I also took possession of funds belonging to my employer, in excess of $5,000, with intent to permanently deprive.
Court Tells Johnson Charges May Be Further Reduced at Sentencing if Restitution Paid in Full
As part of her guilty plea hearing, the court informed Johnson that he charges may be further reduced at sentencing, if Johnson made a $15,000 restitution payment to the Chamber prior to the date of sentencing. Sentencing was scheduled for September 20th.
Johnson Sentenced to 36-Months Probation and Ordered to Pay $15,000 in Restitution
On September 20th, Johnson came before Judge Gary Stott for sentencing. Judge Stott began by explaining that a Rule 11 agreement was agreed to at the guilty plea hearing, and that, based on that agreement, no jail or fine are to be imposed. Judge Stott said that, while the court is not generally bound to the terms of a Rule 11 agreement, the court bound itself to the Rule 11 agreement in this case at the guilty plea hearing. Finally, before imposing the court’s sentence, Judge Stott informed the parties that a “one step reduction per the plea agreement is given on charges 2 and 3,” meaning those second-degree felonies were reduced (402 reduction) to third-degree felonies as part of the plea agreement.
Judge Stott then imposed the court’s sentence on Johnson. Judge Stott sentenced Johnson to one to five years in prison on each of the three felony counts, but suspended any term of imprisonment. In lieu of imprisonment, Judge Stott ordered Johnson to serve 36-months of probation, as well as ordered Johnson to pay $15,000 in restitution to the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce. As part of her probation, Johnson “is to obey all laws, state, local and federal and is to have no further violations during the probation period. The court will accept minor traffic offenses.” Furthermore, if Johnson is able to successfully complete her term of probation, the court said a “second step reduction is to be given on charge 2, theft, and charge three communications fraud,” thereby reducing those charges to Class A Misdemeanors. However, if Johnson violates any of the terms of her probation, the aforementioned prison terms will be imposed.
Johnson’s Destruction of Evidence Benefited Her
An interesting side note to Johnson’s sentencing is that the $15,000 restitution order pales in comparison to the more than $200,000 Johnson stood accused of embezzling from her employer. According to Deputy Utah County Attorney Lance Bastian, the $15,000 restitution amount was agreed to by the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce as part of a negotiated settlement. Bastian said that because Johnson acted to destroy much of the evidence against her, she was given many more accommodations than prosecutors wanted to give her, including the drastically reduced restitution amount.
“Once she realized they were on to her,” Bastian said, “she came in after hours and shredded documents, destroyed electronic documents, deleted emails and destroyed most of the evidence we needed to go to trial.”
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