A former senior investigator with the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision is accused of falsifying evidence handling records in 53 criminal cases at northern New York prisons, the state inspector general's office said Tuesday.
Todd Johnson, 55, has been arrested and charged with second-degree forgery and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing — both felonies — and misdemeanor charges of official misconduct and petit larceny.
The arrest followed an inquiry examining Johnson's alleged conduct as a senior investigator with DOCCS' Office of Special Investigations, which typically handles criminal cases within state prisons. Investigators collect evidence and store it at regional offices. Johnson's job was to transport evidence for criminal cases from Clinton County to Albany.
The inspector general's office said Johnson filed a fraudulent time sheet for overtime and falsely reported that he received evidence — suboxone, a narcotic used to treat addiction — from a subordinate on Monday, Jan. 28. Johnson claimed that he transported the evidence to Washington Correctional Facility, a medium security prison in the town of Fort Ann, Washington County.
However, the investigation discovered that Johnson picked up the evidence from the Office of Special Investigations' field office at Clinton Correctional Facility days before and stored the evidence over the weekend at his home in Saratoga County.
Johnson, the inspector general's office explained, transferred the evidence to a second subordinate on the morning of Jan. 28. He directed the employee to falsify evidence tracking records.
Johnson's conduct was reported to DOCCS by the first subordinate who suspected the senior investigator committed misconduct.
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There were other instances of alleged misconduct committed by Johnson. The inspector general's office said he took two trips to transfer 98 evidence bags from the Office of Special Investigations' Clinton field office to Albany. He filed false paperwork claiming he took the evidence directly to Albany, but the investigation found he kept the bags in his possession overnight.
The evidence bags contained drugs, such as marijuana and suboxone strips, drug paraphernalia, small weapons and witness statements.
Inspector General Letizia Tagliafierro said there was no indication the evidence bags were tampered with by Johnson while being transported to Albany.
"This defendant violated the public trust and compromised the integrity of his office," Tagliafierro said. "Maintaining evidence integrity in criminal cases is a fundamental requirement of law enforcement officers and agencies, and any corruption of the process cannot be tolerated."
Tagliafierro's office released a report detailing its investigation and recommended changes to how DOCCS' Office of Special Investigations handles evidence. DOCCS agreed to those recommendations, the inspector general said. One of the main recommendations is the purchase and implementation of a digital evidence scanning and tracking system.
Johnson, who retired from DOCCS during the investigation, was arraigned in Albany City Court and released on his own recognizance. The case is being prosecuted by Albany County District Attorney David Soares.