KINGMAN – A former Lake Havasu City police detective accused of stealing undercover investigation funds from the Department and committing evidence room crimes more than a decade ago made a Mohave County Superior Court appearance in Kingman Wednesday, nearly five years after a warrant was issued for his arrest for failing to make appearances in his criminal case from some 3,000 miles away.
An internal investigation that began in the spring of 2013 led to John Johnson’s resignation in 2016, his relocation to Massachusetts, and a 48-count felony indictment for forgery, fraud and theft charges. Judge Lee Jantzen noted the record reflects that Johnson, 51, appeared by telephone from Massachusetts for various hearings in his case until failing to do so in February and April in 2019, when the initial warrant was issued.
The Boston Police Department confirmed officers arrested Johnson on an upgraded national warrant outside a VA hospital on the morning of Jan. 17. Johnson told Judge Jantzen that he was released after posting $1,500 bond and was directed to appear in Arizona to clear up the warrant.
The Yavapai County attorney’s office is prosecuting the case as Mohave County has a conflict given its work and association with the Lake Havasu City Police Department. Deputy Yavapai County Attorney Casi Harris urged Jantzen to jail Johnson, indicating the state has no confidence that he’ll fulfill his responsibility to appear for hearings.
“We have not seen him for nearly five years,” Harris said. “During these five years the FBI engaged in extensive efforts to track him down.”
Public Defender Jessica Salem pushed back, contending Johnson would not have been hard to find if anyone was looking for him. She said Johnson has maintained the same address and phone number for a decade and has been working at the same job for years. Further, she said Johnson took part in a jury trial three months ago and spent money to inquire, but was told by an attorney that he had no outstanding warrants in Arizona.
“I assumed there was no warrant in this case,” Johnson said.
“He thought he was done,” Salem said. “So the ball fell through the cracks here and we can’t lay it solely at the feet of Mr. Johnson.”
Judge Jantzen made clear to the defendant that the charges are real, the case is serious, and he needs to comply with court-ordered attendance, whether by phone or in-person, going forward.
“This is still hanging over your head and hasn’t gone away,” Jantzen told Johnson. “For some reason you think it’s gone. It’s not gone.”
Judge Jantzen declined the state’s incarceration request and instead directed Johnson to visit the Probation Department Thursday to enroll in a level 2 pre-trial services monitoring program. He said the defendant will be free to return to Massachusetts while awaiting trial, unless Probation indicates otherwise.
Johnson told the Court he no longer has any contacts in Arizona and intends to return home for a medical procedure scheduled next week. Janten scheduled a Feb. 16 status conference in his case.
“This case is so old,” the Judge said. “I’d like to see it moving forward.”