Crime

Belton woman admits stealing from Marines

A Belton woman pleaded guilty Friday to stealing more than $100,000 owed to U.S. Marines after they had left active service.

Johanna Howard, 38, embezzled $109,138 from July 2014 to May 2015 while she was a supervisor at the Marine Corps Finance Center in Kansas City, according to her plea agreement in U.S. District Court in Kansas City.

Howard admitted to diverting money to personal bank accounts and using the money for things like Kansas City Chiefs season tickets, vacations, new furniture and a carpet for her home, gifts to relatives, and the paying off of 11 payday loans.

According to the plea agreement, Howard forged the signatures of Marines who were owed separation pay after leaving the service. The money they were entitled to was transferred electronically to her bank accounts.

Officials first learned of the scheme in August when a former Marine asked about a payment he did not receive. An investigator found that the man’s information had been changed by someone using a computer code assigned to Howard and the money was deposited in one of her accounts.

Additional investigation found that payments owed to eight people were diverted the same way.

When questioned by Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents, Howard admitted to the thefts.

The charge she pleaded guilty to, embezzlement by a government employee, carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Sentencing for Howard is scheduled for July 8.

Tony Rizzo: 816-234-4435, @trizzkc

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