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State senator charged with conspiracy, theft

Former Detroit State Senator Bert Johnson.
Bert Johnson
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Democratic Senator Bert Johnson represents Michigan’s 2nd District.";

A raid on State Senator Bert Johnson’s home and Lansing office has culminated in a federal indictment.

A grand jury returned charges of theft and conspiracy against the Detroit-area senator.

Acting United States Attorney Daniel Lemisch said in a press release, “Theft of taxpayer’s money by elected public officials, as these charges allege, is disheartening and will not be tolerated.”

Johnson allegedly hired a so-called “ghost employee” to pay off several loans. The complaint says the State of Michigan unknowingly paid over $23,000 to an employee who never did any work for Johnson. The name of Johnson’s co-conspirator was not revealed, but the co-conspirator was hired in March of 2014 and worked through January of 2015.

Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Manny Muriel, said cases like this undermine the public’s trust in the government.

“This case in particular exemplifies the interagency collaboration between the FBI and the IRS,” he said. “And the United States commitment to combat the abuse of power, to elevate transparency and accountability of all public officials.”

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich said in a press release, “These are serious charges announced today by the U.S. attorney, but Senator Johnson is presumed innocent and we are informed that he has retained an attorney to represent him in this matter.”

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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