COLUMBIA, S.C. – Dan Johnson spent two decades in South Carolina and Iraq prosecuting felons. Suddenly, the tables turned. On Tuesday, the former prosecutor became a felon himself.
Johnson pleaded guilty in federal court to wire fraud in a scheme that authorities say netted him about $44,000 in stolen public money to spend on hotel rooms and plane flights for vacations and romantic liaisons, reported FOX News.
The former 5th Circuit Solicitor in South Carolina faces a maximum of 20 years in prison when he is sentenced later this year. However, that is unlikely. Assistant U.S. Attorney Winston Holliday expects he will ask for a sentence of a year to 18 months behind bars.
Johnson, 48, was elected chief prosecutor for Richland and Kershaw counties in 2010. He began his scheme with top aide Nicole Holland about five years later when the employee who had scrutinized Johnson’s work credit card bills left the job, Holliday said.
The two simply took advantage of the lack of oversight, according to Holliday.
Johnson was not alone facing the consequences of his actions. Holland pleaded guilty earlier to wire fraud for using public money for hotel and orthodontist bills and is also awaiting sentencing.
Johnson and his attorney did not agree Tuesday on the $44,000 amount of public money that prosecutors said he took. As a result, that will be hashed out by sentencing. Nevertheless, Johnson agreed to pay back all the money that was stolen.
What Johnson and prosecutors agreed on was one particular credit card bill in November 2016. It included hotel stays in Chicago, Las Vegas and Columbia as well as a plane ticket on a Panamanian airline. Consequently, that month of expenses formed the basis of Tuesday’s plea deal, which dropped about two-dozen other charges, reported FOX.
Johnson said nothing in court beyond politely answering the judge’s questions. He refused to speak to reporters outside the courthouse.
U.S. Attorney Sherri Lydon said prosecuting Johnson shows what the law should really be about instead of taking advantage of a position of public trust.
“The law comes in one size that fits all,” Lydon said outside of the courthouse. “And it most definitely fits Dan Johnson.”
Johnson’s legal trouble is not behind him. He also faces similar state charges, and South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson plans to go forward with that case, spokesman Robert Kittle said.
Johnson spent eight years in the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of captain and becoming a judge advocate. Furthermore, he spent eight years as an assistant prosecutor and eight years as a deputy over internal affairs and the chief lawyer for the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.
Johnson graduated from The Citadel and received South Carolina’s highest civilian honor, the Order of the Palmetto, when he was 22 for working with a center helping domestic abuse victims.