- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A former pest-control official in central Utah is facing allegations that he skimmed county supplies of bug spray and resold them, pocketing about $70,000.

The retired mosquito abatement director from Sevier County sold pesticide to other counties and cities and well as farmers at a discount, Sheriff Nathan Curtis said.

“It’s too bad. It just really stings us all,” Curtis said.

John P. Johnson is facing 11 theft, fraud and corruption charges. Johnson, 67, is accused of altering records to inflate the amount of bug spray used by his crews beginning in 2009, then selling the extra supplies.

One farmer grew suspicious in 2011 when Johnson asked to be paid in cash and beef, according to the sheriff.

“The farmer was like, ‘This isn’t right. Something is wrong here,’ ” Curtis said.

Johnson’s customers also included public pest-control departments in nearby cities and other Utah counties, Curtis said.

A pest-control official in Salt Lake county grew concerned when Johnson asked for a check made out to him personally for leftover insecticide briquettes. The official asked for a proof of purchase, and Johnson provided a photocopied check to a pesticide company that investigators say was forged.

Other customers were just happy to find a low-cost supplier, Curtis said. Most didn’t realize the cheap supplies were stolen.

“I think a lot of places get pushed to get the bottom dollar,” he said. “They’re trying to save every penny they can.”

The alleged scheme was discovered after Johnson retired in 2012. The new mosquito-abatement director noticed problems with the books and red flags went up when people began calling, asking if he would also sell discounted supplies, Curtis said.

Johnson turned over $100,100 in restitution before charges were filed in the case, said his attorney, Marcus Taylor. “He’s ready to take care of everything,” Taylor said.

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, https://www.sltrib.com

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