Councilman Jon Johnson pleads guilty to conspiring to steal federal funds

Published: Jul. 18, 2012 at 1:35 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 19, 2012 at 2:29 AM CDT
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Jon Johnson
Jon Johnson

New Orleans, La. - New Orleans City Council member Jon Johnson appeared in federal court Wednesday morning and pled guilty to one count of theft of government funds.

Johnson appeared before Judge Lance Africk at 10:00 a.m.

Johnson has been charged by federal authorities in connection with his nonprofit "Ninth Ward Housing Development Corporation."

Prosecutors say from 2006-2008 he misused federal FEMA money.  He allegedly redirected the funds to pay for campaign expenses for the Louisiana senate in 2007, according to a bill of information.

Johnson released the following statement Wednesday morning:

Today July 18, 2012, I will enter a plea to a one count bill of information, charging me with conspiracy to convert federal funds and to file a false statement with a government agency.

For some time now, I have been aware that there was an investigation being conducted by the federal government regarding two non-profit organizations -- 9th Ward Housing Development Corporations and the New Orleans Health Corporation, which I have been assisting as an unpaid manager following hurricane Katrina.

My attorney, Julian Murray, was advised by the assistant US attorney that the government would be seeking charges against me relative to my activities in working with these two corporations which received federal funds as a result of the storm damage. Believing I had done nothing wrong and to the contrary having large sums of my personal money and having devoted thousands of volunteer hours to these two charitable organizations, I requested a meeting with US Attorney Jim Letten.

While they acknowledged the positive contributions I have made, they were able to show me documentation where on two occasions I converted federal FEMA funds totaling $13,000 to use in my 2007 senate campaign, and where I filed a false statement in connection with an SBA loan which I was seeking.

I acknowledge that I was, in fact, guilty of those offenses and accordingly agreed to enter a plea and to resign my position as a city councilman. I am hopeful that when all the facts are known, it will be found that my positive efforts to help these two charitable organizations, my many civic activities and my years of honest service to my city and state outweigh my transgressions.

The actions in question too place during the years I was a private citizen and not serving in any public office or as an elected official."

Click here to read  the compliance audit report on the Ninth Ward Housing Development Corporation.