The news of lower enlisted troops acting out and falling apart seems to draw more media attention than when a high-ranking official falls prey to his own flaws and hubris. Not always, there was the case of this Navy officer who allegedly partied hard in Bahrain and came crashing down, but the downfall of Army Colonel James H. Johnson III is almost impossible to believe and may never have been discovered without his wife turning him in.
Colonel Johnson was the commander of the hard-charging, frequently deployed 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vicenza, Italy. Johnson’s case is perhaps even more stunning to me because I was stationed in Vicenza for three years and a smaller, tighter-knit military community I cannot imagine.
There simply are no secrets on Caserma Ederle. But then, Johnson wasn’t really trying to be so secretive at the end.
Nancy Montgomery at Stars and Stripes reports this is how he accrued 27 separate charges under military law:
A West Point graduate and the son of a lieutenant general, Johnson assumed command of the 173rd in 2008, three years after he’d deployed to Iraq and allegedly begun a relationship with an Iraqi woman.
The woman’s father was a Kurdish maths teacher who tipped Johnson off to impending attacks and with whom the colonel developed an ongoing rapport.
When Johnson took command of the 173rd, the girl’s family was in the Netherlands and he would allegedly visit her there and take trips around the world — billing tens-of-thousands of dollars to his government credit card.
Prosecutors say he then gave the family a mobile phone that racked up $80,000 in fees and provided the father a salary as a “cultural advisor”.
He then allegedly billed the military 60-grand for a payment to the dad for imaginary goods and services — then things got downright crazy.
While he was still married to his wife, Johnson sent her back to the states, married the Iraqi woman in Montana, moved her into his quarters in Italy, and kicked his wife off his health insurance plan.
That last move proved his undoing, for while recovering from surgery in New York Mrs. Johnson found she wasn’t covered and called authorities.
The move could cost her up to $4 million in benefits from her husband’s military retirement, but she feels it was the only thing to do.
“He was spinning out of control,” she said. “I saw no one else was going to stop him.”
Johnson faces four charges of failing to obey orders, four charges of making false statements, one of forgery, eight charges of fraud, six of conduct unbecoming, and four that cover the bigamy and adultery.
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