Lawsuit alleges JP’s wife embezzled $98K

The spouse of a Tom Green County Justice of the Peace has been named in a lawsuit alleging fiduciary fraud.

The lawsuit, filed Jan. 12 in the 340th District Court, accuses Margaret Markovitz Howard, 61, of embezzling $98,553.58 from the private funds of J. Willis Johnson III, a resident of Tom Green County.

Howard, who is the wife of Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Eddie Howard, worked for Johnson as a personal assistant between May 2013 and July 2015, according to court documents. She was responsible for handling Johnson’s financial affairs, including maintaining his bank, checking and credit card accounts and paying bills as well as managing Johnson’s personal affairs, among other tasks, the documents stated.

Johnson’s age is not specified in the petition, but it reads in part: “Because of age and health reasons, Johnson entrusted Howard with his estate believing that Howard would at all times act in the best interest of Johnson and his estate.”

In early summer 2015, Johnson was approached by a waitress at a local San Angelo restaurant, The Grill, according to court documents.

The waitress told Johnson she had been sent over by the general manager, who wanted to thank Johnson for paying for a funeral, according to court documents.

This news “came as a surprise to Johnson, because he did not know that he had paid for a funeral recently,” the documents stated.

The general manager, according to the petition for the lawsuit, later approached Johnson and apologized, saying, “I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to say anything. I’m sorry.”

Johnson discovered irregularities after reviewing his finances and fired Howard on July 15, according to court documents. He hired a forensic accountant beginning in August to conduct an investigation into his financial affairs and the services provided by Howard, according to court documents.

The forensic accountant’s audits revealed several substantial financial misappropriation involving Howard, the documents allege.

Howard is accused of establishing a personal line of credit with Wells Fargo Bank funded by Johnson’s personal checking account. She also acquired a platinum-level credit card with Wells Fargo Bank funded by Johnson’s private account and used it for cash advances made directly to herself, according to court documents. Multiple disbursements from Johnson’s account on a Citibank MasterCard credit card also were discovered, the documents stated. The disbursements included payments to Dry Clean Super Center, PetSmart, Petco and other stores that Johnson does not do business with, the documents stated. Howard is also accused of acquiring a debit card and using it to withdraw tens of thousands of dollars from Johnson’s personal checking account, according to the documents.

Howard is accused of misappropriating about $100,000 but less than $200,000 from Johnson’s private funds without his consent or knowledge, according to court documents.

The lawsuit alleges that Howard breached her fiduciary duties as an employee of Johnson, given his advanced age and declining health conditions, the court documents stated.

Both Howard and Johnson are residents of Tom Green County, according to court documents.

A woman who answered the phone at Howard’s home telephone number declined to comment. Attempts to contact Johnson’s attorney in San Antonio were unsuccessful.

Find the original story are gosanangelo.com.

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