Air Force civilian stole $1.1 million via travel charge card, bought piano, Harley, vacations

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A former U.S. Air Force civilian employee was sentenced Nov. 29 to 16 months in federal prison after he used his government-issued travel charge card for more than $1.1 million in cash advances, most of which he used for personal expenses, according to a press release for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.

U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm also ordered Eddie Ray Johnson, Jr., age 60, of Brandywine, Maryland, to three years probation after his 16-month sentence. The first of the three years will be served in home confinement, marking the part of his sentence that addresses theft of government property.

According to the press release, Johnson was additionally ordered to pay more than $1.1 million in restitution, on top of a separate $15,000 fine. He must also perform 500 hours of community service.

Johnson worked for the Air Force as a civilian employee from 2003 to February 2018, serving most recently as a travel coordinator for the Secretary of the Air Force’s Office of Legislative Liaison. According to court documents, it was Johnson’s job to plan congressional travel, reviewing and approving accounting packages submitted by trip escorts.

Johnson admitted in court documents that from March 2014 through September 2017, he used his position and his government travel charge card to obtain more than $1.1 million in cash advances. He used $774,000 of that for his own personal benefit. Court documents did not specify what happened to the remaining $326,000 Johnson stole.

According to his plea agreement, Johnson would deposit stolen funds into a non-interest-bearing account open in his name at a bank branch in the Pentagon. While employees in the Office of Legislative Liaison were instructed to open these accounts to facilitate their daily duties, Johnson used his to write checks to himself. He would then deposit those checks into other personal accounts, spending the stolen funds to pay for a baby grand piano, a Harley Davidson motorcycle, family vacations and living expenses.

Johnson additionally admitted to giving stolen cash to family members, including his spouse.

During the investigation against Johnson, law enforcement recovered approximately $15,174 in cash from his home in 2019, $4,000 of which he was ordered to forfeit during his sentencing.

In total, Johnson’s actions cost the federal government $1,157,540.69, which includes $26,506.02 in banking fees the Air Force paid monthly for the stolen cash advances. He will pay back the $1.1 million loss as part of his court-ordered restitution.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Dana J. Brusca and Elizabeth Wright prosecuted the case while the investigation was carried out by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Defense Department Office of Inspector General, the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation unit and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service’s Mid-Atlantic Field Office.

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