FBI seized shotguns at Sen. Johnson’s house

Robert Snell and Jonathan Oosting
The Detroit News

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents seized two shotguns during a raid in March at state Sen. Bert Johnson’s house, according to a search warrant inventory unsealed Tuesday.

It appears Johnson is not allowed to own shotguns because he was convicted of a 1993 break-in and armed robbery at Oakland Hills Country Club. But it was unclear Tuesday who owned the shotguns — a Western Field 12-gauge and a Remington 16-gauge — and whether they were registered.

The search warrant inventory provides the first look at what FBI agents seized during a new public corruption investigation in a region that has seen more than 40 public officials convicted of crimes in federal court in the last 10 years. The list includes ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Monica Conyers, the former Detroit councilwoman and wife of U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit.

During the March 27 raid, agents seized computers, financial and tax documents, storage devices and a litany of documents reflecting Johnson’s long history of financial problems.

Among the seized documents: two folders of Internal Revenue Service documents, collection letters, garnishment and judgment papers, an overdue letter for a Jaguar vehicle and credit reports.

The raid at Johnson’s home on McLean near Woodward in Highland Park was one stop for FBI agents, who also searched Johnson’s Lansing office and a storage unit.

There was no immediate comment from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Johnson declined comment, referring a reporter to his lawyer, Cyril Hall. Hall could not be immediately reached Tuesday.

Johnson, 43, has not been charged with a gun crime.

The search warrant inventory was filed three weeks after Johnson was indicted and accused of hiring a ghost employee on his Senate payroll and stealing more than $23,000 from taxpayers.

Johnson, who is free on bond, was indicted on conspiracy and theft charges that carry penalties of up to 10 years in federal prison. The indictment alleges he conspired to steal public money between March 2014 and January 2015.

Johnson warned his alleged “ghost employee” Glynis Thornton not to tell the truth about her job, saying it would be a “huge problem” for both of them, according to a November 2015 conversation she secretly recorded in his Highland Park home.

Federal prosecutors have accused Johnson of hiring Thornton on the state payroll to pay back a personal loan she gave him while allowing her to do no work for the state. Thornton allegedly earned $23,134 in taxpayer money.

FBI special agent Corey Burras’ affidavit supporting the warrant application makes clear that Thornton was working with federal officials and agreed to cooperate with them as part of a plea deal in a separate public corruption case involving the state-run Education Achievement Authority in Detroit. In the EAA case, Thornton is set for sentencing on a felony bribery charge.

Hall has said Johnson is not guilty and has argued that Thornton is not a credible witness.

The Highland Park Democrat’s Senate District stretches from southwest Detroit through the city’s east side and includes Highland Park, Hamtramck, Harper Woods and the Pointes.

Senate leaders confirmed last week that Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, will need to authorize any spending or staff decisions in Johnson’s office, an added layer of oversight while he awaits trial.

Johnson has not been stripped of any committee assignments or been the subject of serious expulsion talks, and Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof said Monday that no further action is expected at this time.

“It’s still a legal matter, so no,” Meekhof, R-West Olive, told reporters, “but I know they’re moving quickly in terms of when they were going to schedule some sort of hearing” in the criminal case.

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