Prosecutor: Teacher skims $31K from kids, hits casino
A Macomb County high school teacher is accused of bilking $31,500 from students and spending it a Detroit casino.
Lydia Christine Johnson, 29, of Macomb Township, was arraigned Thursday in 41-A District Court in Shelby Township on a charge of embezzlement from a nonprofit organization, Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith said.
A judge set her bond at $10,000 and scheduled her next court appearance for Oct. 5.
If convicted of the felony charge, she faces up to 10 years in prison.
“This teacher held a position of trust within the high school,” Smith said in a statement. “She repaid that trust by feeding student funds into a slot machine.”
Johnson is a math and Spanish teacher at Dakota High School in Macomb Township, according to Smith.
She served as the school's student activity coordinator from July 1, 2016, until her recent removal, the prosecutor said. In the position, Johnson was responsible for all funds for student events, including last year's Homecoming Dance and a trip to a camp.
Smith said ticket sales for the dance totaled nearly $30,000, but she deposited only $11,000 into the school's Homecoming Dance bank account. Investigators searched Johnson's classroom and found several cash deposit envelopes that were torn open and emptied. They also checked her personal bank account and saw cash deposits far above her salary, he said.
She also oversaw the collection of $13,000 in fees for a student trip to a camp, officials said. Johnson is accused of depositing only about $500 for the school.
When the camp was unable to collect its money from the school, its staff contacted the Chippewa Valley Schools district. The district conducted an internal investigation and contacted the Macomb County Sheriff's Office.
Smith said investigators obtained records from the MGM Grand Detroit casino that showed Johnson spent more than $90,000 on penny slots in 2016. Receipts from the casino were found along with the empty Homecoming Dance envelopes, he said.
School officials said the district is cooperating with the investigation.
“We will do whatever it takes to ensure that our board policies are followed and that our employees are acting in the best interest of our school community," said Ron Roberts, the district's superintendent.
On Thursday, Dakota High School's principal, Paul Sibley, sent a letter to parents informing them of the crime. It didn't name Johnson, but it said a staff member was placed on administrative leave May 3 when the district discovered the accounting discrepancies in the school's activities fund.