MACOMB TOWNSHIP, Mich. – A former teacher at Dakota High School in Macomb Township is accused of stealing thousands of dollars from the school's events fund and using the money to gamble at a Detroit casino.
Lydia Christine Johnson is charged with embezzling from a non profit organization after school officials and police said she stole $19,000 from the school's homecoming account. She's also accused of stealing another $12,500 from ticket sales for a student and parent trip to Camp Tamarack. That's a total $31,500 she's accused of stealing from the school.
The Macomb County Prosecutor's Office said Johnson was a Spanish teacher at Dakota High School and also served as the student activity coordinator from July 1, 2016 until her recent removal. She was responsible for all funds, both incoming and outgoing, related to student events.
From the Prosecutor's Office:
According to school officials, police, and prosecutors, Johnson oversaw ticket sales for Dakota’s 2016 Homecoming dance, which, based on attendance, should have taken in nearly $30,000.
Johnson deposited only $11,000 into the school’s Homecoming account. A search of Johnson’s classroom revealed several homecoming cash deposit envelopes that were torn open but empty. Johnson’s bank records also show 2016 cash deposits far in excess of her salary.
Johnson also oversaw ticket sales and receipts for a 2016 sixty-person student-and-parent trip to Camp Tamarack. Johnson should have collected and deposited nearly $13,000 in fees. Only $500 was deposited with the school.
When Camp Tamarack’s repeated attempts to collect were unsuccessful they contacted school officials. After an internal investigation by Chippewa officials yielded more questions than answers the Sheriff’s Department was contacted.
$90,000 spent at MGM Casino
Johnson allegedly used the money to play penny slots at MGM Casino in Detroit. Casino records show she spent more than $90,000 playing the slots at MGM Casino in 2016, according to the Prosecutor's Office. A search of her classroom revealed casino receipts next to open and empty homecoming envelopes, the Prosecutor's Office said.
"This teacher held a position of trust within the high school,” said Prosecutor Eric Smith. "She repaid that trust by feeding student funds into a slot machine."
Chippewa Valley Schools Superintendent Ron Roberts released this statement:
"We have committed our full support and cooperation to the Sheriff’s Department and the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office in this 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."
Johnson, of Macomb Township, is scheduled to be arraigned about 11 a.m. Thursday at 41-A District Court in Shelby Township. If convicted, she could face 10 years in prison.
Johnson on administrative leave
Chippewa Valley Schools said Johnson was placed on administrative leave on May 3, 2017, "when district administrators discovered some accounting discrepancies in the school’s activities fund."
"Pursuant to District Policies regarding administrative leaves, the teacher was prohibited from being on any school premises, attending any school events, and having contact with any students or staff members without prior permission from Central Administration," a statement from the school district reads. "Administrators also contacted the Macomb County Sheriff’s Department to ask for their assistance. The Sheriff’s Department has been in the process of conducting a thorough investigation into the matter. The District has cooperated with the Sheriff’s Department during its investigation, and has turned over all relevant evidence. The District will continue to cooperate with the Sheriff’s Department and Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office."