johnson_120Ithaca Police Department Chief of Police John R. Barber and Tompkins County District Attorney Gwen Wilkinson jointly announced Wednesday that after a lengthy police investigation the Ithaca Police Department has arrested Pamela Johnson for embezzling money from her employer, Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT). The arrest stems from a complaint from TCAT officials that a significant amount of money was missing from their accounting department. Police Investigators determined that over the last several years Johnson diverted approximately $247,000 to an unauthorized bank account. The transfer of funds was made to appear as payments to a TCAT vendor, however Police Investigators determined that the vendor never provided goods or services to TCAT and that Johnson controlled the unauthorized bank account.

Wednesday day at 1:30 pm Johnson appeared voluntarily in Ithaca City Court with her attorney. Johnson was arraigned on one charge of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree. Johnson was arraigned and released on her own recognizance. The date of Johnson’s next court appearance was not established. Additional charges are pending.

Regarding the arrest of Johnson, Chief Barber stated “I’m proud of the effort put forth by Lead Investigator Fred Myers and members of the IPD Investigative Division who worked diligently to solve this crime. The investigation required an immense amount of concentration and attention to detail to adequately prepare the case for prosecution”.

District Attorney Wilkinson stressed that as a matter of law Johnson is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Wilkinson stated “It is important for people to realize that the criminal justice system will ultimately decide guilt and innocence, but this is a strong case. It was a superb job by all of the people involved in investigating this crime”.

Tompkins County, the City of Ithaca, and Cornell University, funding partners of Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT), issued a joint statement Wednesday.  Tompkins County Legislature Chair Michael Lane, City of Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick, and Cornell University Vice President for University Relations Joel Malina issued the following joint statement:

"This is obviously very disturbing news.

"The County, City, and Cornell have for years found in TCAT a solid partner in area transportation. We believe in its mission and have worked hard to make sure TCAT has the resources necessary to operate a high quality transit system.

"It is deeply disappointing to learn that a steward of these resources allegedly put her personal interests ahead of the taxpayers, funding partners, and riders who support and rely on TCAT every day.

"We demand the recovery to TCAT of all available assets identified by the work of the Ithaca Police Department and District Attorney Gwen Wilkinson. We are confident the TCAT Board will take swift action to review and improve the agency’s system of internal controls to make sure this can’t happen again.

"We are pleased that the Board will immediately commission an independent forensic audit by an outside accounting firm to assure TCAT’s funders and stakeholders that this was an isolated incident and that the full extent of the loss has been identified.

"We know that if the Board finds that lapses in oversight and control enabled this activity to occur over the course of several years, it will hold appropriate individuals accountable."

Later in the day TCAT, Inc. Board of Directors Chairman KyuJung Whang also issued a statement:

"The TCAT Board of Directors and the TCAT management team are taking their obligations very seriously in the wake of these grave allegations.

"Irregularities were discovered during TCAT’s annual financial audit performed by an external accounting firm.  TCAT subsequently conducted an internal investigation and then contacted the police.  Ms. Johnson was immediately suspended from her duties, pending the investigation. Upon charges being filed today, TCAT officially terminated Ms. Johnson’s employment.

"To confirm that no additional funds are missing, TCAT is bringing in an independent forensic auditing firm to further scrutinize the agency’s financial records.

"The TCAT board and management team are firmly committed to ensuring that such incidents do not occur in the future. We are reviewing all of our accounting processes and will implement all necessary changes.

"In the meantime, TCAT continues to fully cooperate with Ithaca City Police Department investigators and the Tompkins County District Attorney’s Office. In addition to the criminal charges and punishment associated with those, the District Attorney’s office will seek to require Ms. Johnson to make full restitution to TCAT."