FJBC employee indicted in federal court
MISSOULA — The Flathead Joint Board of Control’s former executive administrative assistant, Johanna Clark, was indicted on federal charges of wire fraud, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft in United States District Court on Feb. 26 in Missoula.
According to court documents, Clark is facing 17 counts related to unauthorized credit card purchases and for checks she allegedly wrote with FJBC monies between May of 2014 to May of 2017.
The FJBC was tasked with collecting operation and maintenance fees from irrigators to run the Flathead Indian Irrigation Project. The joint board was dissolved in 2018 after Lake County Judge James Manley ruled that it was not a valid board because an election allowing irrigators to vote on whether a joint board should be reestablished in 2017 was not held. The Mission, Jocko and Flathead irrigations districts are still in operation as individual districts rather than a joint board of the three districts.
Back when the board was untied, Clark was the executive administrator. FJBC underwent an internal investigation at the request of several board members after it was noticed that Clark’s employment contract was changed without board approval. An outside accounting firm was tasked with investigating FJBC records from 2014 to 2016. Clark was put on leave without pay.
The audit revealed that $221,000 was taken from the irrigation agency without board approval. Clark’s position was terminated in May of 2017. The audit was turned over to the FJBC’s insurance company and a claim was made to recoup the missing funds. The Federal Bureau of Investigation began their own investigation.
The unauthorized purchases listed in charging documents with the FJBC credit card for 2015 included the purchase of two six-drawer beds for $1,733; a foam mattress for $2,449; a calving pen for $3,450; silver coins for $2,151; a guitar and accessories for $1,151; two camera lenses for $2,970; furniture for $1,849; and Dodge pickup parts for $1,925. In 2016, the unauthorized credit card charges were for the purchase of “HD-93 Clark for House Representative” signs for $502; round bailer parts for $1,474; and a purchase from a tire center for $2,000. In 2017, the purchases included computer software and a camera for $3,537.
The charging documents state: “To execute the scheme and artifice, the defendant wrote checks to herself drawn on FJBC’s checking accounts, applied the signature stamps of FJBC members, without the knowledge or consent of the FJBC or those members, and deposited the checks into her personal account.”
The identity theft charges stem from an incident on Dec. 21, 2016. Charging documents state that Clark knowingly and “without lawful authority” used the identification of another person (the names of FJBC board members) during and in relation to a felony violation of bank fraud. Clark, who has not yet entered a plea, has been summoned to appear before Missoula’s U.S. District Court on March 19 to answer to charges.