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Former Nichols fire official starts sentence for theft of funds

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By Thomas Barr

 NICHOLS - A former fire official has begun serving a six-month sentence in the theft of over $170,000.

James P. Johnson Jr., who served as the chairman of the Nichols Fire Protection District board and was its treasurer, entered a guilty plea last July on the charge of theft by unlawful taking of over $10,000.

At the time, he received a five-year sentence for the Class C felony and agreed to serve six months in jail with the rest of the time probated.

On Tuesday, the restitution hearing was held to determine if Johnson would owe any additional funds to the fire district.

According to prosecutor Michael Mann, two insurance carriers paid the district $172,165.91.

The total claim from the district records showed a loss of $176,106.18 from Johnson’s actions.

Johnson agreed to pay the difference, which will be $3,940.27.

Defense attorney Mark Edison said his client should be able to pay off the debt within a year. Divided into 12 months, Mann said that would amount to roughly $330 a month once Johnson is released from the county jail.

Fire board officials John Reid Jr. and Robert Davis both agreed with the resolution of the case.

Johnson was immediately taken into custody and will begin service of his sentence in the Bullitt County Detention Center.

During the plea agreement hearing, Johnson told Circuit Judge Rodney Burress that he wrote checks from the district’s account to himself and also used the agency’s credit card.

“Things got a little tough,” Johnson explained to Burress last summer. The thefts ran from 2007 through 2010.

Johnson remained free on bond until the restitution could be determined. None of the funds taken had any connection to the Crusade for Children money collected each year.