P/sunny
76°
P/sunny
Hi 80° | Lo 57°

Woman Sentenced for Theft

Assistant Embezzled $600K in Claremont

Concord — Before sentencing Bonnie Johnson on Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Laplante looked to Mike Satzow, the owner of North Country Smokehouse, the business where Johnson embezzled more than $600,000.

Laplante asked Satzow what he thought of the 33-month prison sentence he was about to order.

“Your honor, I’m comfortable,” Satzow said.

With that, Johnson, 45, of Claremont, was sentenced for one count of wire fraud for stealing from her former employer. She will also be on three years of supervised release after she leaves prison.

When the crime was first discovered last year, Johnson confessed to Satzow when confronted and then provided Claremont police with two recorded statements, according to federal court documents.

She spent the money on luxury cars, jewelry and vacations, according to a lawsuit filed by Satzow.

“It’s a lot of money. It’s a massive, massive amount of money,” said Laplante. “It’s not from General Motors. It’s not from a company that won’t miss the money.”

On Oct. 10, Johnson pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court and accepted a plea deal that would send her to jail for nearly three years.

“I have to start by saying that the effect on Ms. Johnson, whether it’s 28 months or 33 months, you have a 45-year-old woman with no criminal record. This is going to devastate her life no matter the number of months,” said Johnson’s attorney, Richard Guerriero. “She’s suffering a punishment beyond the time she will spend behind bars.”

Johnson was joined in Concord on Tuesday with seven members of her family, including her husband and children. Before the hearing began, Johnson hugged her family outside the courtroom.

Later, when it was her opportunity to speak, Johnson stood up and faced Satzow and immediately started to weep.

“I want to say I’m very sorry to Mike for stealing from your company,” Johnson said, reading from a prepared statement. “The fault is entirely mine. When I was confronted, not only did I feel terrible for what I did, I also felt relieved. I felt trapped with deceit.”

She promised the room that she won’t commit a crime like this again, and she’ll work to pay back the money.

She then turned to her husband and children.

“I’m sorry that I’m an embarrassment to my children, my mom and dad and my dearest friends,” Johnson said.

Johnson was a longtime administrative assistant to Satzow until she was fired. Satzow discovered Johnson’s theft in April while she was on vacation, according to a lawsuit filed by Satzow.

Earlier in the hearing, Satzow told the judge he didn’t want to address the court.

However, Laplante asked him several questions, including what he thought of the sentence.

Satzow told the judge that he is a third-generation butcher, and that he owns a complex business with 30 employees that markets and ships to individual customers, retailers and airlines. And he added that Johnson worked for him for 21 years.

“She was an integral part of my success,” Satzow said. “We both worked hard.”

Laplante asked Johnson’s adult children if they would visit their mother in prison. Numerous members of the family nodded their heads, which led Laplante to recommend that Johnson be assigned a federal prison close to New Hampshire. The nearest is in Connecticut.

Johnson must repay $506,011.77 to North Country Smokehouse and the remaining $100,000 to an insurance company.

Guerriero told the judge that Johnson is committed to surrendering “every dime she has,” including a retirement fund valued at $40,000 to $70,000 that she accumulated while working for Satzow.

Johnson must also file amended or original individual income tax returns for 2005 through 2012. She and her husband recently filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and were planning to move from Claremont to Grantham, according to bankruptcy filings.

Between July 2005 and April 2013, Johnson wrote checks to herself from the business, endorsed them using Satzow’s signature stamp and deposited them into her personal account in Claremont, according to federal court documents. She also charged personal expenses to the company credit card and tampered with the company’s books to cover her theft.

After the hearing, assistant U.S. Attorney Nick Abramson declined to comment and said his office would issue a statement.

Satzow followed Johnson’s family out of the courtroom on Tuesday. He declined an interview, saying only, “It’s been tough.”

Johnson will remain free until Feb. 21, when she is scheduled to surrender .

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.