Originally created 07/15/06

ID theft suspect indicted



A Martinez man was indicted Friday on charges that he used his position with a nondenominational ministry to steal job applicants' personal information and use it to obtain credit cards.

Sabra Johnson, 32, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Savannah, Ga., on two counts of wire fraud, three counts of fraudulent use of an access device and three counts of aggravated identity theft, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release.

The indictment alleges that Mr. Johnson, who was the president of Tour of Hope Inc., a nondenominational ministry on Wrightsboro Road in Grovetown, told applicants that he would need their Social Security numbers and other personal information to complete their job application, the release says.

The indictment says Mr. Johnson used the information to obtain credit cards in the names of at least three job applicants between January 2003 and January 2005 and then used the cards to make purchases.

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Edmund A. Booth Jr. said Friday that Mr. Johnson's whereabouts are unknown.

Once he is arrested, by law, an initial appearance hearing would be required within three days.

If convicted, Mr. Johnson could face up to 30 years in prison on wire fraud, 15 years on unauthorized use of an access device and two years on aggravated identity theft, to run consecutively, the release says.

Timeka Martin, of Augusta, a victim listed in the indictment, said she had met Mr. Johnson and filled out an application for Tour of Hope as a personal assistant.

She said she responded to a newspaper ad and met Mr. Johnson at his home in the Westlake subdivision. She said he told her his office was under construction.

She said she later realized that a credit card had been set up under her name at two banks and that some payments had been made under the name of Tour of Hope. She then called police.

According to the indictment, Mr. Johnson fraudulently told financial institutions that the credit cards set up under job applicants' names were to be used by employees of Tour of Hope.

Tour of Hope Inc. is listed on the Georgia Secretary of State's Web site as a nonprofit entity that "shall engage in religious, educational and charitable activities. The primary function of said entity is evangelism and discipleship."

The organization was created Sept. 29, 2003, and dissolved on July 9, 2005, because it had not filed an annual registration, according to the secretary of state's site.

Matilda Johnson is listed as the agent for the nonprofit group. A phone number listed for her at Tour of Hope has been disconnected. Dr. Johnson, Mr. Johnson's wife, also is listed with the secretary of state's office as the agent for the restaurant Tilly's Peas and Butter Beans in Augusta. A phone number for her at that restaurant is no longer in service, and a reverse check links it to the former Westlake address of Mr. Johnson, under the name of Global Faith Concepts LLC.

In January 2005 authorities searched Mr. Johnson's Westlake home, Tilly's and the home of Marie Davis, of Thomson, who was charged with deposit account fraud and is listed with the secretary of state's office as the agent for Global Faith Concepts. Ms. Davis was a business associate of Mr. Johnson, but at the time authorities didn't divulge the details related to her arrest. She is not listed in Friday's indictment.

Authorities said they couldn't provide details related to Mr. Johnson's case because it is an ongoing investigation.

Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said job seekers should research a business before interviewing to make sure it is legitimate.

Ms. Martin said that in her case Tour of Hope seemed to be legitimate, adding that she had heard Mr. Johnson had ministered to some personal care homes. Now, though, she said, she would urge job-seekers to shy away from any opportunity if they have a bad feeling about it.

"If you have the slightest bit of concern or feel iffy about it, don't do it," she said.

Staff writer Valerie Rowell contributed to this article.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.