Former NKY visitors bureau official pleads guilty on charges related to stolen funds

The former finance director admitted to sending $4M overseas

Former NKY visitors bureau official pleads guilty on charges related to stolen funds
Bridget Johnson was the finance director at the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau for 20 years until she was terminated Oct. 3, 2018. She pleaded Tuesday guilty on three charges including (Source: WXIX)

COVINGTON, Ky. (FOX19) - A former finance director for the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau pleaded guilty Tuesday on three charges related to sending stolen funds to unauthorized individuals, prosecutors confirmed.

Bridget Johnson pleaded guilty in a Kenton County courtroom to theft of more than $1 million, unlawful access to a computer and abuse of public trust of more than $100,000. She changed her plea since she originally pleaded not guilty in November 2018.

Prosecutors say Johnson sent vendor checks to unauthorized people who claimed to be vendors between May 2017 and September 2018.

She was also accused of using a bureau computer to make and delete those transactions.

According to Commonwealth Attorney Rob Sanders, she admitted she used her position as finance director to fraudulently access her employer’s online bank accounts causing the bank to send dozens of checks, totaling more than $4 million, to the unauthorized individuals.

Sanders said she told a detective she met a man on Match.com and believed they were romantically involved despite never meeting the man. The man, who claimed to live in Ft. Thomas, began asking her to wire money so he could return home to see her.

“It’s a scam," he said. “It’s always a scam. There’s no legitimate reason to send money to anyone you’ve never even met it person. It will always end bad.”

In July, a man was arrested in the Bahamas in connection with receiving funds from Johnson. According to his July arrest warrant, he deposited the checks in his account, kept about $400,000 and used wire transfers to send the rest to accounts in China.

“Johnson never received a penny from the theft but she continued to send the stolen funds to scam artists in hopes of recovering approximately a quarter-million dollars worth of her own money she’d already lost,” Sanders told the court. "Until Ms. Johnson started taking tax dollars from her employer, she was the largest individual victim of theft I’ve ever seen, but now she’s the largest thief.”

Johnson was terminated from her position in October 2018, and was subsequently arrested the next month.

Her sentencing hearing is set for Dec. 17.

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