Crime & Courts

Suspended SC Solicitor Johnson embezzled from Air National Guard, new charges allege

Dan Johnson
Dan Johnson File

The latest federal charges against suspended 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson allege he embezzled $7,122 from the S.C. Air National Guard, and he erased evidence on an iPad and an iPhone in an attempt to cover up his crimes.

The latest indictment was handed down last week by a federal grand jury in Columbia. That indictment was not made public on the federal court’s public records Internet site until Monday morning.

Johnson has pleaded not guilty to all the charges and is insisting on a trial.

Johnson, 47, first was indicted in September on 26 federal fraud charges connected to allegations that he and a former top aide misappropriated more than $55,000 in taxpayer money.

However, the first indictment did not specifically mention the S.C. Air National Guard.

The latest indictment alleges as a major of the Air National Guard, Johnson was required to travel in and out of state, and had a Guard credit card to pay for official travel expenditures, including “lodging, airfare, rental car fees, parking, mileage, meals and incidentals.”

While being reimbursed by the Air National Guard, Johnson also “charged official travel expenses, including lodging, rental car fees and parking expenditures to his Solicitor’s Office credit card,” the indictment says.

The indictment also says while on Air National Guard business, Johnson drove his 5th Circuit office vehicle and, then, claimed “mileage reimbursement from the Air National Guard, falsely affirming the use of a personally owned vehicle.”

The embezzlement of federal money for his own use took place during 2016 and 2017, according to the indictment.

Monday’s indictment also says that in mid-September of this year, Johnson “did corruptly alter, mutilate and conceal” evidence and he “did erase data from an iPhone” and data from an iPad, “both of which were issued to him by the 5th Circuit Solicitor’s office.”

The indictment said Johnson tampered with the devices “with the intent to impair (their) integrity or availability for use in” the criminal case the federal government is building against him.

Nicole Holland, formerly Johnson’s top aide, pleaded guilty on Nov. 1 to two counts of mail and wire fraud. She is expected to testify against Johnson in his upcoming trial, which is set for Feb. 22.

Until last February, Johnson seemed assured of winning a third four-year term as solicitor for Richland and Kershaw counties in the this month’s election.

There are only 16 solicitors, or chief prosecutors, in South Carolina. Each oversees a multi-county court circuit and controls nearly every criminal case brought in that circuit. Johnson’s office had a budget of some $8 million in federal, state and local money, and a staff of about 140 employees, including more than 35 prosecutors.

As solicitor, Johnson made about $140,000 a year. That salary now has been suspended.

Johnson has also been indicted by a state grand jury.

This story will be updated.