HINDS COUNTY, Miss. (WJTV) – Hinds County Election Commissioner Toni Johnson pled guilty on Monday, January 9, 2023, to two counts of embezzlement by a public official.
Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens said Johnson also pled guilty to one count of making false representations to defraud the government.
The charges were related to misuse of pandemic relief money from a group funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Johnson, who represented District 2, served as chairperson of the Hinds County Election Commission in 2020 and again in 2021, until her resignation as chairperson following the
investigation into suspected fraud.
Johnson was indicted on multiple felony charges involving the embezzlement of Hinds County property and the submission of false claims to defraud the Hinds County.
According to the state auditor’s office, she used COVID-19 response money from the Center for Tech and Civic Life to buy two 85-inch (216-centimeter) televisions and personal protective equipment, which she purportedly had delivered to her own home and one other private home.
The auditor said that to conceal the scheme, Johnson allegedly bought smaller, less expensive TVs as replacements for the larger ones bought by the Hinds County Election Commission.
Owens said Johnson was sentenced to 20 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) with 15 years suspended. She will serve five years in MDOC’s Intensive Supervised Probation followed by five years of post-release supervision.
Johnson was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $24,216 to be paid over the course of her probationary period.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.