Former Convention & Visitors Bureau Employee Sentenced in $4 Million Theft
A former employee of the Northern Kentucky Convention & Visitors Bureau (meetNKY) was sentenced Tuesday to fifteen years in prison after pleading guilty last month to embezzling more than $4 million from the tourism office.
Bridget Johnson, 59, appeared in Kenton County Circuit Court on Tuesday to accept her sentence where she faced up to 50 years behind bars.
Through her guilty plea in November, Johnson was convicted on charges of theft by unlawful taking of more than $1 million, abuse of the public trust of more than $100,000, and first degree unlawful access to a computer.
Johnson was fired from her position in October of last year following her arrest on these charges.
It was later revealed that she systematically sent thirteen checks totaling $1,125,000 to a man who operates wireless stores in New York City. That man, Keith Tasher, 42, was arrested earlier this year in the Bahamas and is now in the Kenton County Detention Center on charges of theft by unlawful taking of more than $1 million and engaging in organized crime.
He is being held on $1 million bond.
Tasher operates All Star Wireless, All Star Wireless 3, and Simple Wireless in New York City. According to the charges, Tasher received the thirteen checks from the convention and visitors bureau, sent by Johnson, but had no legal reason to receive them.
In November Kenton County Commonwealth's Attorney Rob Sanders told RCN that the total amount of money stolen from meetNKY was $4,049,421.14.
The Northern Kentucky Convention & Visitors Bureau Board Chair Tim Bray issued a statement on Tuesday following Johnson's sentence.
“The entire board and staff of meetNKY would first like to thank and recognize the job done by the Covington Police Department and Commonwealth’s Attorney office in prosecuting this crime. The past year for meetNKY has been very tumultuous and challenging dealing with the betrayal and crime of a long time employee," Bray said. "The organization has continued to enhance its internal controls to further the mission of meetNKY. While dealing with the sad outcomes of this crime, the bureau has also stayed laser focused on our mission of providing a measurable economic impact on the Northern Kentucky economy, providing best of class services for visitors to our region and celebrating another record breaking year of results in our three counties.”
The agency also listed the changes it's made to its financial and operating policies:
The Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau has made aggressive, transformative changes to the bureau's financial and operating policies.
- The CVB has conducted a full forensic audit and is implementing recommendations on financial safeguards from the audit.
- The CVB terminated its relationship with the past financial audit company and has secured a new financial audit organization.
- The CVB has completed an audit with the new financial audit organization and is implementing all policies and procedures related to cash and expense management.
- The CVB has secured a new financial institution.
- The CVB has added new board level and Executive Committee level positions that have career experience in financial management.
- The CVB is beginning the process of outsourcing day to day accounting functions to add another layer of separation of duties inside the organization. Reconciliation will be performed internally and validated via Executive Committee approval monthly.
- Most importantly, the CVB has continued to meet and exceed goals and expectations in fulfilling its mission of promoting and managing the dynamic destination of NKY and our region by growing our visitor economy through increased visitor expenditures.
-Michael Monks, editor & publisher