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Ex-Allina HR exec made off with $269,000 -- and likely much more, charges say

MINNEAPOLIS — An Inver Grove Heights, Minn., man and former Allina Health vice president faces seven felony charges that accuse him of embezzling $269,000 from his former employer.

David Matthew Johnson, 53, is expected to make his first court appearance February in Hennepin County to face seven counts of theft by swindle. Law enforcement suspect that Johnson stole significantly more money, closer to $775,000 beginning in 2004, but were able to bring charges only under the five-year statute of limitations, according to a statement released Thursday, Jan. 11, by the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

In 2017, Allina officials became suspicious that Johnson was submitting false mileage and expense reports and making unauthorized charges on a company credit card. They asked Johnson, a human resources vice president, for evidence justifying his expenses and when he was unable to provide it he was placed on leave.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Johnson's case was another example of why employers should use rigorous financial safeguards.

"We charge numerous employee embezzlement cases every year and it follows a pattern," Freeman said. "The employee is highly trusted and, over time, the good financial safeguards stop being applied to that employee. But no one can predict which employee will let greed get the better of him or her, so those safeguards must be applied to everyone, all the time."

Johnson has hired Minneapolis attorney Andrew S. Birrell to represent him in the case. Birrell said Thursday that he just received the complaint against Johnson, was reviewing it and would conduct his own investigation.

Birrell said Johnson would not be available for comment.

Allina asked the state Commerce Fraud Bureau to aid in the investigation of Johnson, including searching a credit union where he had accounts.

Allina officials and investigators discovered that Johnson filed false or inflated expense and mileage reports and used a company credit card to buy season tickets to the Vikings, Timberwolves, Lynx and at the University of Minnesota.

"Like all fraud, embezzlement involves not only theft but also an abuse of trust," Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Jessica Looman said. "Unfortunately, embezzlement can go on for a long time, even years, before it's detected because perpetrators will go to great lengths to cover up their crimes."

Johnson was charged by summons and is due in court Feb. 14. Six of the seven counts of theft by swindle Johnson faces carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. The final count carries a maximum 10 year prison term and $20,000 fine.

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.

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