Crime

Former Rancho Mirage city employee pleads guilty to embezzlement charges

A former city of Rancho Mirage employee pleaded guilty today to embezzling nearly $80,000 from the city with the help of her sister-in-law, and both women were immediately sentenced to probation.

Sandra Johnson, 51, of Indio, the city's former senior manager in the Building and Safety Code Compliance Division, was charged last year, along with her 41-year-old Desert Hot Springs resident Brandi Perry, with embezzling $78,650 over the course of more than two years.

Johnson pleaded guilty to a single felony charge of embezzlement and received three years probation, while Perry pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor grand theft count and received two years probation. Other felony embezzlement and conspiracy counts were dismissed at sentencing.

According to an arrest warrant declaration, Johnson was allowed to authorize expenses for code enforcement work. She and Perry opened an account for a company called "Brandi Perry DBA Perry Property Preservation,'' which charged the city for ``abatement work'' that investigators say never occurred. 

Invoices for deposits into the Perry Property Preservation account were "falsified,'' with the city charged for "services not performed,'' according to the declaration.

The criminal complaint detailed 65 separate occasions between March 27, 2015, and May 12, 2017, in which prosecutors said Johnson falsified invoices for abatement work that was supposed to be performed by the shell company. Amounts on the invoices varied, but were generally under $2,000 each.   

Perry filed federal tax returns in 2015 and 2016 indicating that the company received income from the city of Rancho Mirage. Johnson was also captured in security camera photos making ATM withdrawals from the Perry Property Preservation account, the declaration states.

Johnson resigned from the city following a sheriff's department investigation that began last May.


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