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Former Willmar fireman pleads guilty to theft charge


WILLMAR -- Chad Michael Johnson, 38, of Willmar, pleaded guilty Monday to a felony charge of theft by swindle for taking $15,300 from the Willmar Fire Department for his personal use.

As part of a plea agreement, two additional felony charges will be dismissed and he will pay restitution. Johnson will be sentenced May 9.

The plea came three days before Johnson was scheduled for a jury trial in Kandiyohi County District Court.

The charges against Johnson were filed in September. He made his first appearance in October and 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 was no longer working as a firefighter with the department. According to the Fire Department website, Johnson retired from the department last 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 police detective twice and admitted to taking the money, but said he planned to pay it back. He reviewed 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.

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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