Felony charges for former Austin Moose Lodge admin.

Published 9:24 am Tuesday, October 9, 2012

AUSTIN — A former Moose Lodge administrator and Austin Public Schools board candidate has been charged in Mower County District Court for allegedly forging tens of thousands of dollars in checks.

Ashley “Bud” Richard Johnson, 35, of Austin, faces one count of felony check forgery.

Police began investigating Johnson — who is also a volunteer firefighter in Austin — in August after the Moose Lodge board of governors became suspicious. They say an unauthorized $1,700 check written to a band that played at the club bounced, so they started their own investigation.

Email newsletter signup

The board discovered that Johnson may have stolen $22,764 from the lodge since May 2011, as he allegedly wrote himself a payroll check every two weeks for anywhere from several hundred dollars to more than $1,000. Johnson’s position was supposed to be voluntary, the board said. They added any checks distributed by the club must be approved at meetings and signed by two club officers.

According to the court complaint, Johnson wrote 28 checks to himself, another to his wife, forged the signatures and withdrew funds from the Moose Lodge’s checking and savings accounts. A detective found video surveillance of Johnson withdrawing funds from the Moose Lodge’s bank accounts. According to the complaint, Johnson concealed his actions by diverting money, not paying creditors and transferring money from other Moose Lodge accounts.

Johnson was arrested on Sept. 13, according to his file, and initially denied forging any of the board members’ signatures. He said his salary was discussed in the club meeting minutes.

However, he later told the detective he was in a financial crisis and had to “juggle the books” from the first day he started. He added, “we were going to lose everything we owned … the vehicle in repossession, we were losing our house,” according to the complaint.

The complaint also states Johnson would put the checks directly into his wife’s checking account by signing them over to her because he did not have an account. Johnson added his wife did not know what he was doing and had no involvement.

The maximum sentence for Johnson’s charge is 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. His first court appearance is Oct. 18.