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Johnson faces 3 felony theft charges for allegedly stealing funds from Willmar Fire Department

WILLMAR -- Chad Michael Johnson, 38, of Willmar, made his first court appearance Thursday on three felony charges of theft by swindle for allegedly taking $15,300 from the Willmar Fire Department for his personal use.

Johnson's next appearance is Dec. 13 in Kandiyohi County District Court. He was released on his personal recognizance.

According to an affidavit of restitution filed with the court, the Fire Department is seeking $10,088.59 in restitution. The amount includes $5,400 from two department funds, $4,000 in audit costs and $688.59 for changing locks in doors and cabinets at the department.

After the charges were filed in September, Fire Chief Marv Calvin confirmed that Johnson is no longer working as a firefighter with the department. According to the Fire Department website, Johnson retired from the department this year with 12 years of service.

According to the criminal complaint, Calvin notified Willmar police on June 30 that a recent audit of department accounts had revealed several questionable transactions made by Johnson, who was the head treasurer for the department. Included in those transactions was money that appeared to have been taken by Johnson from the department's relief association and the firefighters association accounts.

Johnson was interviewed by a detective on July 1 and, prior to beginning the interview, Johnson allegedly told the officer he had had financial difficulties, lost his job and had written some checks taking money from the department but had planned to pay the money back.

Johnson was interviewed again on Aug. 11 and reviewed with the detective a number of checks written from the Fire Department accounts to Johnson. The checks were written between August 2008 and April 2010 for a total of $15,300.

Johnson allegedly admitted that each was not legitimate Fire Department expenses and that he had put the money into his personal checking account.

During the interview with the detective, Johnson said he had been attempting to pay back portions of the funds, but had not yet paid back all of it.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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