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City Worker Sentenced for Embezzling $215K

City Worker Sentenced for Embezzling $215K

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OREM, Utah (AP) -- The former director of Orem's city recreation center has been sentenced to 60 days in jail for embezzling $215,000 over seven years.

Michael Lynn Johnson, 43, also was ordered this week to perform 120 hours of community service, pay $1,100 in fines and court charges and get treatment for substance abuse.

If Johnson successfully completes the 36-month probation period, the charge may be reduced to a misdemeanor, his attorney said.

Johnson pleaded guilty in June to second-degree felony theft, punishable by one to 15 years in prison.

Defense attorney Michael Esplin said Johnson cashed out his city retirement 401(k) fund and took out a second mortgage on his home to fully pay back the funds.

He said Johnson came forward and admitted his crime and was remorseful for his actions.

"They may have caught him, but he came forward before that happened," he said. "He tried to figure out the amount that had been taken."

Deputy Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman told 4th District Court Judge Lynn W. Davis that 60 days jail time was too light a sentence for felony theft.

"He violated the trust of the city and stole $215,000," Buhman said. "Sixty days seems extremely low for someone who has done this."

He suggested 180 days would be more appropriate.

Esplin said 60 days and 36 months probation was the recommendation of Adult Probation and Parole.

Esplin also asked that Johnson be allowed work release in order to retain his new job, pay his debts and keep his home.

Judge Davis adopted AP&P's recommendation and the work release request.

Orem City Attorney Paul Johnson, no relation to Michael Johnson, said the city was closing in on irregularities with finances at the Orem Fitness Center just before Michael Johnson admitted to the thefts, which spanned a 7-year period.

Since then, the city has significantly beefed up its accounting and auditing protocols to prevent something similar from happening again, he said.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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