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Gratiot woman gets prison for embezzling $2.2 million
DARLINGTON - A Gratiot woman sentenced last week to federal prison for embezzling $2.2 million from MiTek Corp. faces new charges that she stole more than $90,000 from a physically disabled Darlington woman while employed as her caregiver.

Teresa Lynn Johnson, 53, was charged April 23 in Lafayette County Circuit Court with four felony counts of theft. If convicted on all counts and sentenced to the full extent of the law, she faces up to 32 years in a state prison.

Johnson, who also goes by Teri Johnson and Teresa L. Verdick Johnson, posted a $500 cash bond in the case on April 30. Conditions of her bond include no contact with the victim or her personal, family and financial accounts.

Johnson has a preliminary hearing May 15.

The new charges came as Johnson settled a criminal case in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. As part of a plea deal reached in December, she was convicted of wire fraud.

She was sentenced Thursday to 41 months in federal prison to be followed by three years of supervised release.

She is also ordered to pay $2.2 million in restitution to electronics firm MiTek Corp. and several companies it owns, as previously settled last year in a federal civil suit in Wisconsin.

MiTek, Atlas Sound L.P., and Innovative Electronic Designs LLC hired Johnson as their credit group leader to collect payments from customers who owed the firms money, according to the suit. MiTek has operations in Winslow, Monroe and other locations. Atlas Sound and IED have operations in other states.

While employed in this role, she funneled payments from customers to herself and covered her tracks for more than four years until a supervisor uncovered the scheme in 2016.

The new case filed in April against Johnson alleges she stole money over the course of about a year from a physically disabled Darlington woman recovering from cancer.

Johnson and the victim were acquainted through the woman's business, according to the criminal complaint.

When the woman got sick, Johnson volunteered to help her and was later hired at a rate of $250/week to drive her to appointments, sort her pills, take her shopping, care for her and her dogs and clean her home.

Johnson also helped the woman with her finances and gained access to multiple bank accounts and credit cards belonging to her.

Over the course of about a year, from late 2016 to early 2018, including a period when the victim was hospitalized for cancer surgery, Johnson reportedly used her access to the accounts to write herself checks and use PayPal and the credit cards to make purchases without the woman's consent.

An investigator on the case added up the stolen money to a total of $92,509.35.

The victim confronted Johnson in February after getting a call from her bank that her account was overdrawn, a second account had been emptied and "there were numerous checks to Johnson for large amounts of money and numerous online purchases made," the investigator reported.

When confronted, Johnson admitted to taking the money but said her father "is a millionaire" and would pay it back.

Federal court records echo this assertion. According to a brief filed by her defense attorney, Johnson has relied and continues to rely "heavily" on the financial and emotional support of her father.

Defense attorney Jill Tranel filed a brief that argued for a lesser sentence of supervised home confinement due to Johnson's "numerous medical ailments which have affected her physically, mentally and emotionally."

Tranel also described how Johnson was addressing several compulsive conditions.

"On her own, Ms. Johnson sought and has been participating in counseling for compulsive theft, spending and hoarding," Tranel wrote. "Ms. Johnson reports she has benefitted tremendously from this counseling, as it has met a long untreated need."

But prosecutor John Lausch Jr. countered that Johnson "stole millions of dollars while suffering from all of the ailments (she) now argues should allow her to avoid prison."

According to Lausch's response brief, Johnson spent the stolen money on, among other things, buying and caring for Gypsy-breed horses on her farm outside Gratiot, High Horse Gypsies.

Johnson made the local news in the summer of 2016 when a Gypsy Cob mare she imported from the United Kingdom gave birth to a rare set of twin foals.