Michael Johnson enters plea deal after stealing more than a million dollars

Johnson entered a plea of no contest to Grand Theft, Money Laundering, and 19 counts of Official Misconduct
An investigation that all started because a non-profit wanted to purchase snacks for kids has come to a close today.
Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 7:19 PM CST
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -Former Panama City employee Michael Johnson learned his fate in court on Thursday.

Johnson entered a plea of no contest to Grand Theft, Money Laundering, and 19 counts of Official Misconduct, and was sentenced to 8 years in prison.

Circuit Court Judge Timothy Register accepted the plea and handed down the sentence in the case prosecuted by Assistant State Attorney Peter Overstreet.

“Actions like these where the public trust is violated simply will not be tolerated,” State Attorney Larry Basford said. “The defendant was a government employee who used his position to enrich himself. Working with the Panama City Police Department throughout the investigation we were able to prepare a case that was strong enough that the defendant is not only being punished but the stolen funds are being recovered.”

According to the investigation, Johnson pocketed money from the non-profit Friends of the After School Assistance Program, better known as Friends of ASAP, and the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency.

Panama City Police Chief Mark Smith tells us his investigators discovered Johnson was funneling the money from the non-profit into his own personal bank accounts.

“He had multiple bank accounts that he was working through and moving it over to there, letting it rest for a short period of time. Then reinvesting that money from his account into the purchase of properties, to the repair of properties, the rebuild of properties, and to the homes that were under his care,” Chief Smith said.

In total, investigators discovered 11 properties and three vehicles that Johnson bought with stolen funds. As part of the plea deal, Johnson surrendered all of those assets to the city.

In addition, Johnson surrendered the $113,00 found on his property by law enforcement, his last paycheck with the city, his retirement with the city, and the money he funneled into his personal bank account.

In total, Johnson will be surrendering an estimated $1.6 million.

He stole exactly $1,000,754.84 from the Friends of ASAP and $127,376.04 from the Panama City CRA.

“At the end of the day, we believe that restitution will be made and certainly the children of Panama City and certainly the taxpayers within the CRA will be made whole. We anticipate that certainly with the forfeiture of all the money, properties the vehicles. I am going to be making a recommendation immediately that on Tuesday to the city commission that we begin rapidly to liquidate those so we can pour those funds back into those two entities that I just mentioned,” Mark McQueen, Panama City City Manager, said.

For city officials this was a learning lesson, for the victims of the crime, justice was served.