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MADISON, WIS. – Timothy M. O’Shea, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Karen Johnson, 55, Cumberland, Wisconsin was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge William M. Conley to one year and one day in prison for wire fraud, to be followed by a three-year period of supervised release. Johnson pleaded guilty to this charge on September 1, 2023.

Between 2014 and 2019, Johnson stole over $200,000 from the St. Croix Chippewa Housing Authority, an agency of the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin. This agency is responsible for providing and maintaining housing for low-income tribal members. The Housing Authority receives in excess of $1 million each year in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Johnson, who had worked for the Housing Authority since 1995, used her position to write checks for personal expenses. This included a scheme to defraud in which she generated and approved false invoices billing the Housing Authority for work purportedly done by a contractor. Johnson then wrote checks drawn on Housing Authority funds, forged the contractor’s signature, and deposited the checks into her own bank account.

At sentencing, Judge Conley found that Johnson’s conduct was serious because she took advantage of her position within the Housing Authority and deprived other tribal members of financial support. Judge Conley stated a custodial sentence was also warranted due to the length of time Johnson stole funds from the Housing Authority. 

The charges against Johnson were the result of an investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorney Taylor L. Kraus prosecuted this case.