Berrien County building, grounds superintendent charged with embezzlement

Published 9:08 am Monday, August 30, 2021

St. JOSEPH — A Berrien County employee has been charged with embezzlement.

The Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office announced that Berrien County Building and Grounds Superintendent Joel Todd Johnson, 59, of St. Joseph, has been charged with embezzlement by an agent in an amount between $1,000 and $20,000.

The charges stem from allegations of Johnson using Berrien County funds to purchase materials and tools for personal home construction and home improvement jobs.  the allegations further indicate the embezzlement took place from approximately February until August.  The total cost of items alleged to have been purchased ranged between $1,000 and $20,000.

Johnson was arraigned in Berrien County Court on Friday, with bond set at $5,000. As a condition of bond, Johnson is prohibited from entering any Berrien County government grounds unless court related. He is scheduled for a pre-exam conference Sept. 3 and a preliminary examination Sept. 9. The maximum possible penalty for the charge is five years in prison and/or fines up to $10,000 or three times the amount embezzled.

“We were extremely disappointed to learn of the allegations against Mr. Johnson,” said Berrien County Superintendent Brian Dissette in a media statement. “He has been placed on unpaid administrative leave pending the outcome of our internal investigation, which will include a forensic audit. As county employees, we are accountable to our residents and businesses and must be good stewards of the tax dollars entrusted to us. We expect all members of our team to operate at the highest ethical levels at all times. We are cooperating fully with legal authorities and will seek full restitution of any funds that may have been misappropriated.”