Former Dakota teacher spared jail time

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published April 9, 2019

 Lydia Johnson

Lydia Johnson

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MOUNT CLEMENS — A former Dakota High School teacher appeared in court April 2 for a review hearing.

Macomb County 16th Circuit Court Judge Richard Caretti determined that Lydia Johnson won’t have to spend 60 days in jail.

In the original sentence last year, the court imposed a 60-day jail term that could’ve began immediately after the review hearing. The primary purpose of the review was to determine whether or not Johnson would have to serve jail time.

In 2017, Johnson was charged with embezzlement between $1,000 and $20,000 from a nonprofit organization, a felony that carries a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. She was also charged with a misdemeanor of being an embezzling agent/trustee between $200 and $1,000.

During 2018 court proceedings, police determined Johnson had stolen $30,000 from Chippewa Valley Schools.

The 30-year-old avoided jail time in 2018 by pleading no contest to the misdemeanor charge and charge one was dismissed. She was ordered by the court to pay back $30,000 to Chippewa Valley Schools, which she did in April 2018.

“I am asking the court not to impose the 60 days,” her attorney Paul Stablein said. “Ms. Johnson is employed full-time and has been very active in her recovery. She has made great strides in understanding her condition from when this incident occurred to today.”

The Spanish teacher was taken into custody after the district and police determined she had allegedly been stealing money from the Dakota homecoming dance and a student-parent trip. She oversaw tickets sales for both events.

Stablein added that, “It appears that Ms. Johnson has complied with every term and condition of her probation. She’s actively involved in counseling and has paid all fines and court costs.”

Along with paying back $30,000 to the school district, Johnson agreed to resign from her position at Dakota, seek treatment for gambling and to have no contact with the school district, employees or students.

Johnson was also sentenced to two years of probation in 2018.

According to the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office, Johnson oversaw ticket sales for Dakota’s 2016 homecoming dance and, based on attendance, ticket sales should have brought in nearly $30,000.

However, Johnson reportedly deposited only $11,000 into the school’s homecoming account. A search of her classroom by police revealed several open and empty homecoming cash deposit envelopes, and Johnson’s bank records showed cash deposits in 2016 in excess of her salary, according to the Prosecutor’s Office.

As Dakota’s student activity coordinator, Johnson also oversaw ticket sales for the 2016 student and parent trip to Camp Tamarack, which was attended by 60 people. The district estimated the tickets should have brought in $13,000, but Johnson only deposited $500 with the school.

The district was made aware of the actions when Camp Tamarack attempted to collect unpaid dues from Johnson and contacted the district. An internal investigation led district officials to report the activity to the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office.

The Prosecutor’s Office alleges Johnson spent more than $90,000 at Detroit’s MGM Casino in 2016 playing penny slots, according to casino records. Several casino receipts were found next to the open homecoming envelopes.

Stablein said that through conversations with Johnson, she has gained great insight into her flaws and how to deal with those issues going forward.

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