Former Air Force employee who once coordinated travel for congress, pleads guilty to $1.1M embezzlement scheme

News

Chad Garland

Stars and Stripes

A former Air Force employee who coordinated travel for members of Congress has pleaded guilty in federal court to the theft of Pentagon funds through cash advances on his government-issued travel card as part of a $1.1 million embezzlement scheme.

Eddie Ray Johnson Jr., 60, of Brandywine, Md., used his Citibank travel card over more than three years to put cash advances into a Bank of America account at the Pentagon, court documents said. The scheme cost the Air Force $26,500 in banking and service fees, they said.

Under a plea deal on May 14, Johnson admitted to diverting at least $774,000 of the stolen funds for personal use, such as buying a baby grand piano, making loan payments for a Harley Davidson and taking family vacations.

” Eddie Johnson betrayed his position of trust for his personal gain,” Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner said in a statement last week. “Corrupt public employees rip off the taxpayers and undermine everyone’s faith in the government.”

Johnson was an Air Force civilian employee for 15 years until his resignation in 2018. The theft occurred while he worked as a travel coordinator in the Air Force Secretary’s Office of Legislative Liaison, where he planned congressional travel and approved accounting packages submitted by accompanying Air Force personnel.

Employees of the office were permitted to use travel cards to obtain cash advances for official use, which they deposited and withdrew from noninterest-bearing accounts in their own names at the Pentagon’s Bank of America branch.

Johnson was issued a government credit card with a $50,000 limit, court documents show. From March 2014 through September 2017, he put some $1.13 million in cash advances into the Bank of America account.

Johnson then wrote checks to himself and family members for “claimed reimbursements that had not in fact been incurred,” a court document filed with Johnson’s plea agreement stated. For example, he would at times ask his wife to pay household expenses out of her bank account, which he would then reimburse in cash.

A search of his home in Brandywine in 2019 recovered over $15,000 in cash, of which Johnson said at least $4,000 were proceeds from his theft scheme. In all, his actions cost the government nearly $1.16 million.

Under the plea deal, he agreed to a restitution order in the full amount, and that he would try to sell the piano prior to sentencing, which is scheduled for Sept. 3.

Johnson faces up to 10 years in prison for the crime.

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