AKRON, Ohio (WJW) – Former Cleveland City Councilman Kenneth Johnson was sentenced in U.S. District Court Friday for orchestrating two schemes to steal nearly $200,000 in taxpayer money from two federal programs.
Johnson, 75, received six years in prison and was ordered to pay about $619,000 in restitution. He maintained his innocence, and he stopped short of apologizing to the public or admitting to his crimes.
“I made mistakes. I know I made mistakes,” Johnson said in court. “I should have done things differently, but I did not purposefully break the law.”
In July, a jury convicted Johnson on 15 counts including two counts of conspiracy to commit federal program theft, six counts of federal program theft, five counts of aiding and assisting the preparation of false tax returns, one count of witness tampering and one count of falsification of records in a federal investigation.
“The fraud perpetrated in this case relied on convincing the public he was a good individual who had their best interests at heart,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Seabury Gould said in court.
Johnson served as Ward 4 Councilman from 1980 until his conviction in July.
Investigators said Johnson devised a scheme that involved stealing federal funds meant to help his constituents.
Prosecutors said over eight years, Johnson and his executive assistant, Garnell Jamison, submitted false reports to the city of Cleveland, receiving federal funds for work that was never done in his ward. The pair also used Buckeye Shaker Square Development Corporation to steal community block grants.
The scheme diverted more than $175,000 into Johnson’s personal bank account.
Jamison, 62, who worked as Johnson’s executive assistant for more than 20 years, was convicted of 11 counts for his role in the schemes. He was given five years in prison.
Johnson’s attorney, Myron Watson, said he planned to appeal the conviction and sentence. In court he asked for leniency, pointing to Johnson’s age, health and appeals from Ward 4 residents Johnson helped during his time in office.
“In the length of Ken Johnson’s life, 50 years of public service, he was entitled to a better shake,” Watson told reporters after the sentence was announced.