The Williams County Sheriff’s Office has revamped how it handles cash bonds after a former civilian clerk was accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars in cash that had been posted as bond for jail inmates.

Krystal Johnson was charged in December with a class B felony count of theft. She was served the charge via criminal summons and appeared in Northwest District Court last week, where she was given a $5,000 personal recognizance bond.

The investigation started in May, when agents from the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation began looking into missing money that had been collected as cash bonds. Johnson was the warrants clerk for the sheriff’s office and responsible for handling envelopes with cash that had been used as bond to secure a defendant’s release from jail.

Johnson took the envelopes from the Williams County jail and handled processing the bonds and sending them to the correct jurisdictions, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in Northwest District Court. In April, Johnson was suspended for poor work performance, and while fellow employees were going through her desk, they found more than 40 opened cash bond envelopes, including some that had less money inside than noted on the outside of the envelope.

Eventually, the investigation uncovered more than $38,500 in missing bond money, court records indicate. Investigators also found that Johnson had created false entries in the sheriff’s office system that made it seem like some of the bonds had been sent to the proper jurisdiction.

When investigators interviewed Johnson, she admitted using the cash bonds to pay her bills, as well as bills for her children and grandchild, charging documents state. She told investigators that she had financial trouble and took the money to keep from falling further behind.

Johnson used money from newer bonds to refill the envelopes she’d taken money from previously, BCI Special Agent Patrick Lenertz wrote in the probable cause affidavit.

“Krystal Johnson intended to cover empty or short bond envelopes at the next paycheck cycle, however, (Johnson’s) paychecks were not big enough to financially cover bills and the short bond envelopes,” Lenertz wrote.

Johnson started working for the sheriff’s office in 2013 and was the warrants clerk from July 2017 until she was fired in May 2019. Williams County Sheriff Verlan Kvande wrote in a statement that she was terminated after an internal investigation determined human error was not a factor in the missing money.

“Internal processes and procedures have been reviewed and any necessary changes have been made to help provide accountability in the daily workings of the office,” Kvande wrote. “These changes have been made to help ensure that a situation such as this does not happen again.”

All of the bonds that were missing have been paid by Williams County, Kvande told the Williston Herald in a phone interview Tuesday.

Johnson entered a written plea of not guilty and waived a preliminary hearing scheduled for Feb. 5. Her trial is scheduled for May.

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