A disgraced, ex-Chicago police commander was sentenced to probation and community confinement for stealing more than $360,000 in social security payments from his deceased mother.
Kenneth Johnson, a 32-year veteran, started cashing his mom’s social security checks in 1994, the year of her death, and he continued until the Social Security Administration realized something wasn’t right in 2017 – 23 years later, according to The Chicago Tribune. He pleaded guilty to the crime in May.
U.S. District Judge Manish Shah sentenced Johnson, 55, to two years of probation and six months of community confinement, which is typically served in a residential halfway house or in a facility like the Salvation Army. Shah also ordered Johnson to repay the entire $363,064 amount he stole in social security benefits and called his betrayal “infuriating.”
“How many times (as a police commander) did you plead with people to come forward and accept responsibly for something?” Shah asked, according to The Chicago Tribune. “Yet all that while, there was a crime being committed that you knew all about, and you did nothing to stop it.”
Johnson once had a promising career with the Chicago Police Department. He was credited for helping to achieve a steep drop in violent crimes in the city’s Englewood neighborhood but retired before he was charged last year.
Before he was sentenced, Johnson apologized to the court, the community, Chicago police, and his loved ones, saying he was so ashamed and embarrassed by his actions, he didn’t feel worthy of asking for their support at his sentencing, according to The Tribune.
“I stand alone today because I am alone in this,” Johnson said in court, the newspaper reported. “I made the decision. I had no right to do that.”
Federal prosecutors were hoping for a two-year prison stint for Johnson.
“In stealing from Social Security, Johnson betrayed the public trust and let down thousands of Chicago police officers who risk their lives every day protecting the public from crime,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared Jodrey said, according to The Tribune.
Jodrey added that probation was not enough of a deterrent and might encourage others to steal from the government.
“That’s not a deterrent. That’s more like a court-approved, interest-free loan, courtesy of the American taxpayer,” Jodrey said.
Johnson will also retain his police pension since the crime was not related to his police job.
The federal government will begin taking money from each check until the full amount is repaid to Social Security.