Martinez man involved in fake ministry sentenced to 66 months

A Martinez man who stole the identities of those who thought they were applying for jobs in a ministry was sentenced Thursday to 66 months in prison.

Sabra Johnson, 35, stole personal information to set up phony bank accounts and credit card accounts, stealing $84,862 that can be accounted for.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Greenwood asked the judge to increase Mr. Johnson’s sentencing range because he stole more than that. By his own admission he stole more than $165,000, she said.

Senior U.S. District Court Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. agreed the federal sentencing guideline range in this case, 37 to 46 months, was inadequate.

Mr. Johnson stole the identities of people who applied for jobs with Tour of Hope, an alleged nondenominational ministry in Grovetown, between 2003 and 2005.

There have been many charlatans through the years who draped themselves in religious garb, Judge Bowen said. “This case present another one.”

That he used a ministry is what one victim’s parents found so shameful, they said Thursday.

Diane McCartney told the judge she still remembers how excited and proud her daughter was to find a job in a ministry.

Heather Yeend soon found out her bank account had been emptied and all the checks she had written bounced, her mother said. Bill collectors called her day and night about credit card bills Mr. Johnson put in her name. Her credit rating dropped to zero and no one would hire her, Mrs. McCartney said.

The stress has taken a toll on her daughter’s health. A doctor advised her not to attend Thursday’s hearing, Mrs. McCartney said.

Defense attorney Michael Garrett asked the judge not to increase Mr. Johnson’s sentence. He noted Mr. Johnson only had one prior misdemeanor conviction.

Mr. Johnson apologized and promised to try to repair the damage caused by identity fraud. He was glad he got caught, Mr. Johnson said, so he can begin the process to become a better man.

Judge Bowen said it was a shame Mr. Johnson couldn’t have used his considerable talents pursuing honest work, which probably would have earned him more than his fraudulent schemes.

Once Mr. Johnson completes his prison sentence, he will serve five years on probation. During that time he must perform 100 hours of community service and pay $84,862 in restitution.

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