Former Panama City employee arrested for allegedly embezzling nearly $500,000

Published: Oct. 20, 2022 at 1:32 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -Panama City Manager Mark McQueen informed the public during a press conference on Thursday that a former city employee had been arrested on Thursday.

McQueen said the former city of Panama City employee charged is Michael Johnson. He has been charged with Grand Theft of over $100,000.

“I confronted Mr. Johnson on October 3rd, 2022, regarding unrelated management practices that I found to be unacceptable within his department. As a result of my engagement with him, he submitted his resignation immediately which I accepted. At that time I had no reason to believe that there was any immoral unethical or illegal conduct, being conducted by Mr. Johnson,” McQueen said.

McQueen reported that on October 12, 2022, after Johnson’s departure, city staff members found bank statements for an account that the city said they were unaware of. McQueen said it was a bank account for a non-profit.

“They noticed that checks had been signed by Mr. Johnson to himself. Upon finding the discrepancies, we immediately took action to notify the Panama City Police Department and the bank,” McQueen said.

The Panama City Police Department is leading an ongoing investigation into Mr. Johnson and the alleged theft of funds from a non-profit account.

“Our City staff will continue to support the investigatory process and the Panama City Police Department and all law enforcement agencies, as they continue their investigation. One of my expectations in the City of Panama City is to always be audit-ready, audit worthy every day. Clearly, in my estimation Mr. Johnson has failed to achieve this core value that I have established for the City of Panama City,” McQueen said.

McQueen said he wants to assure the public that all of the services of the city will continue to be available, including the after-school assistance program, as well as the community redevelopment agency, and the housing programs.

“There will be no reduction in services by any of our staff to any of our citizens and indeed at no time, were any children in harm’s way or in danger,” McQueen said.

Panama City Police Chief Mark Smith stated the department became aware of the issue last week through city employees that brought the allegations forward.

“We began the initial investigation. We have identified certain discrepancies. This investigation will be time-consuming. There are a lot of records that we are going to have to go through and look at given the magnitude of the case and its size, and the assistance that we are going to need. We did reach out to the FBI who have applied us some assistance also. They have given us agents to work hand in hand with us. It is going to be an intense accounting issue that we are going to run through,” Chief Smith said.

Chief Smith said Johnson has been taken into custody and has been charged with a second-degree felony. Smith reports the department is moving forward with the ongoing investigation which is going to take time.

You can watch the full press conference down below.

Panama City Police Department

PCPD is holding a press conference today.

Posted by WJHG-TV on Thursday, October 20, 2022