$1 million in stolen government funds paid for Pentagon worker’s grand piano, feds say

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A former travel coordinator in the U.S. Air Force accused of sneaking more than $1 million in cash advances with a government-issued credit card has been sentenced to prison.

Eddie Ray Johnson Jr., of Brandywine, Maryland, was sentenced to one year and four months, the first 12 months of which he’ll spend in home confinement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release on Monday, Nov. 29. Johnson was also ordered to pay $1.15 million in restitution and perform 500 hours of community service.

A public defender representing Johnson did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment on Tuesday, Nov. 30.

Johnson was a civilian member of the Air Force from 2003 until he resigned in February 2018, prosecutors said.

He worked from 2014 until his resignation as a travel coordinator for the Secretary of the Air Force in the Office of Legislative Liaison, which prosecutors said is housed in the Pentagon and tasked with arranging for members of Congress and their staff to visit assets or installations of the U.S. Air Force.

Those trips are funded by Congressional dollars allocated to the Air Force, the government said.

An escort was often assigned to accompany members of Congress on their trips to pay for official expenses using a Citibank government-issued credit card. Those Air Force employees were sometimes allowed to take out cash advances — such as when they were traveling to a place where most transactions were done in cash or to reimburse travelers for government expenses if an escort was not with them.

Johnson’s role was largely managerial, the government said, and rarely involved him traveling with a Congressional delegation.

According to his plea agreement, Johnson planned trips, reviewed and approved accounting packages requested by an escort, trained trip escorts and served as a bridge between the Office of the Legislative Liaison and the Secretary of the Air Force.

Johnson was given a government-issued credit card because of his travel coordination responsibilities, prosecutors said.

Between March 2014 and September 2017, Johnson is accused of using that card to get $1.1 million in cash advances, which he often deposited into his personal bank account.

Prosecutors said he spent $774,000 on a slew of personal expenses — from credit card bills and family vacations to loan payments on his Harley Davidson and a baby grand piano. Some of the funds also went to his wife to help cover the cost of furniture and household bills.

Johnson was charged by criminal information in June 2020 and pleaded guilty in May to one count of theft of government property.

As part of his plea agreement and in addition to restitution, he will have to pay a $15,000 fine and forfeit $4,000 federal agents seized from his home during a search in November 2019.

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