A former Chicago police commander who bilked the federal government out of more than than $360,000 in Social Security payments admits in a new court document he was “motivated by greed” but argues for probation instead of a prison sentence recommended by prosecutors.
Kenneth A. Johnson, who led the Englewood patrol district for two years ending with his retirement last year, is scheduled for sentencing Tuesday. He pleaded guilty to collecting the payments — intended for his mother — for more than two decades after her 1994 death.
“Johnson has demonstrated acceptance of responsibility for his criminal conduct,” according to a sentencing memo filed by his attorney Michael F. Clancy.
“This felony conviction has adequately deterred Johnson,” the memo argues. “The public does not need to be protected from further crimes of Johnson. Restitution will be ordered.”
Federal prosecutors have argued Johnson should be imprisoned for 18 to 24 months.
“For over 23 of the 32 years that Johnson was employed by the Chicago Police Department to serve the public and enforce the law, Johnson was committing a federal crime every single month,” the prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo. “Johnson betrayed the public trust and stole from a program designed to assist the most vulnerable members of our community.”
Johnson and his mother held a joint bank account in which she received monthly electronic Social Security deposits, according to his plea agreement, filed in May. He failed to notify the government of her death at age 72 and instead collected the deposits and used them for his own benefit, the agreement says.
The withdrawals included $203 taken out in April 2017 through an ATM located at the Englewood station, according to a bank record attached to the prosecutors’ memo.
“Withdrawing crime proceeds at the police station he oversaw as the district commander reflects a troubling lack of respect for the law and a cavalier attitude about the nature and seriousness of his criminal conduct,” prosecutors wrote.
The thefts totaled $363,064 and continued until November 2017, when the Social Security Administration finally looked into whether his mother was still alive, according to the feds.
If not for that probe, the prosecutors added, the commander “simply would have continued stealing.”
Johnson pleaded guilty to one felony count of theft of government funds. He will be ordered to repay the $363,064, the plea agreement says.
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson promoted Kenneth Johnson to Englewood commander in 2016. Over the next two years, the top cop repeatedly praised him for drops in murders and shootings in that South Side district.
Superintendent Johnson last year promoted the former commander’s twin brother, Kevin Johnson, to deputy chief of the Education and Training Academy.
Kenneth Johnson’s sentencing memo says he has a “long-term relationship” with a veteran CPD officer.
“His girlfriend,” the memo says, “remains supportive of Johnson.”
When Johnson retired in August 2018, the city listed his annual salary as $162,684.
Three months later, the U.S. attorney’s office charged him with the theft.
U.S. District Judge Manish Shah will decide on the sentence.