December 2, 2011 in City

Suspect in Davenport Hotel fraud convicted in Louisiana

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A man accused of stealing from the Davenport Hotel after being hired under a stolen identity has been sentenced in federal court in Louisiana for a similar scheme.

William Joseph Johnson Jr., 55, is to serve about five years in prison for charges related to a $77,000 fraud he perpetrated against a hotel chain based in Natchitoches, La., between October 2006 and January 2007.

He’s still wanted on a handful of felony charges in Spokane County for allegedly stealing from the Davenport after duping hotel administrators into hiring him as the financial controller. That job gave him access to the hotel’s financial operations.

“Our case is still active,” said Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Shane Smith. “As a practical matter, with him being down in Louisiana, we just don’t have the funds to bring him back.”

Police believe Johnson is a longtime con artist who has swindled expensive hotels across the country, according to court documents.

Johnson is accused of using a stolen identity – Robert J. Johnson – to obtain an executive position at the Davenport that included close contact with hotel owners Walt and Karen Worthy. He was hired in July 2008 but left his office on Sept. 11, 2008, after Karen Worthy scheduled a meeting to discuss a forged $4,800 check that had been cashed in a Caribbean bank about a week earlier.

After Davenport administrators reported Johnson to police, detectives discovered his true name by looking at his vehicle registration and learned he had felony theft warrants in Louisiana.

The fraud in Louisiana, which occurred between October 2006 and January 2007, mirrored the alleged crime at the Davenport but on a larger scale.

Johnson worked as an assistant controller for Dimension Development and altered invoices that had previously been paid, which caused additional payments that Johnson kept for himself.

Johnson pleaded guilty in July to bank fraud, counterfeit securities and aggravated identity theft charges. He was sentenced Nov. 18 in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Louisiana to 58 months in prison. He’s required to pay $77,390.59 restitution and was remanded to the custody of the U.S marshals to begin his sentence. The plea deal dropped 11 additional felony charges and requires Johnson to perform 100 hours of community service.

Smith said he tried to negotiate with the U.S. attorney’s office in Louisiana to include restitution requirements for the Spokane County charges, but they declined.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Cytheria Jernigan, who prosecuted Johnson, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Johnson is charged in Spokane County Superior Court with first-degree identity theft, first-degree theft and four counts of forgery.

Lynnelle Caudill, the Davenport’s general manager, said she doesn’t expect Johnson to repay the hotel.

“I am glad he was caught and I am glad he’s not going to be able to swindle anyone else,” Caudill said.

Johnson passed a background check using the false identity and had great references, including past work for Hilton hotels, Caudill said.

Walt Worthy said in 2008 that the hotel “did everything we could have and can’t think of anything we would have done differently” regarding their hiring of Johnson.

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