Former Mount Sterling Village Administrator Joe Johnson remains in jail under $500,000 cash or surety bond, following arraignment in Madison County Common Pleas Court on Wednesday.
Johnson, 46, was charged with 30 felony counts, including theft in office, theft, money laundering, tampering with records, failing to file personal income taxes and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.
He is accused of stealing at least $600,000 in village funds between 2012 and 2016. The case remains under investigation and additional arrests are possible.
The corrupt activity charge is a first-degree felony that could put Johnson in prison for 11 years.
Judge Eamon Costello refused a request by defense attorney Scott Culbert to release Johnson with GPS monitoring, saying the amount of prison time the man faces is “significant.”
Culbert argued his client has no criminal history, no money and no vehicles since three were impounded by investigators following Johnson’s arrest in Jackson County last week.
But special prosecutor Bob Smith called Johnson a flight risk and noted the man does have access to other vehicles. Smith is prosecuting the case for Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost.
Madison County Sheriff Jim Sabin has called Johnson an “intimidating individual.” Local residents have also posted stories of negative interactions with Johnson on social media.
If the former administrator manages to post bond, he will be under house arrest at his 3203 Camba Road home near Jackson.
Sabin is seeking forfeiture of the property. Proceeds from the sale would go to compensate the village for money lost.
Jane Beathard is a contributing writer for The Madison Press.