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Employee Accused in $3.8 Million-Plus Embezzlement at Convention & Visitors Bureau

A woman is in jail on Friday accused of embezzling more than $1 million from the Northern Kentucky Convention & Visitors Bureau (NKYCVB).

Bridget Johnson, 58, is charged with theft by unlawful taking or disposition of more than $1 million, abuse of public trust of more than $100,000, and first degree unlawful access to a computer.

According to the arrest citation obtained by The River City News, Johnson was the finance director of the NKYCVB for twenty years and was fired on October 3, 2018.

From May 2017 to September 2018, it is alleged that Johnson sent checks online to several people who Johnson claimed were vendors for NKYCVB. According to the investigation, the checks were sent to real people, but these people were never vendors to NKYCVB and never provided any payment for the service they received.

In all, the amount allegedly embezzled by Johnson is $3,840,500 or more, the citation said.

Johnson then allegedly deleted the fraudulent transactions on the bureau's monthly bank statement from BB&T that she would present to the board of directors.

The activities allegedly took place on a bureau computer.

Further details about the alleged embezzlement were not available.

The Northern Kentucky Convention & Visitors Bureau released a statement on Friday.

"Our organization was the victim of a sophisticated crime, and law-enforcement agencies are currently conducting a criminal investigation into the matter," the statement said.

The organization directed further questions to Kenton County Commonwealth's Attorney Rob Sanders. 

According to the statement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating the case with the Covington Police Department. Covington Police also referred questions to Sanders.

The River City News spoke with Sanders on Friday, and he confirmed the charges. He said that more information about the alleged crimes would be released at Johnson's preliminary hearing, which is not yet scheduled. Johnson, who is being held at the Kenton County Detention Center on $500,000 bond, is scheduled to be arraigned on Monday morning in Kenton District Court. A preliminary hearing would come at a later date.

The abuse of public trust charge suggests that there are tax dollars involved, based on Kentucky state law. The highest classification for that charge is "$100,000 or more", while the theft by unlawful taking charge that Johnson also faces is the second-highest classification (more than $1 million). $10 million or more is the highest classification for that charge, under Kentucky law.

"The Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Commission/Bureau and its Board of Directors are committed to employing strongest financial safeguards to protect funds that are entrusted to us," the statement said. "The Board will make a more formal statement about this crime, the criminal investigation, and what actions it is taking to deal with it in the near future."

This story may be updated.

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Photo: Bridget Johnson (via Kenton County Detention Center)