We all remember Enron. It was monumental news when it broke. We’ve also all heard of a ponzi scheme. But what happens when you take control of retirement funds of nurses, clergy, and teachers and steals $1,000 at a time?
You disappear for 14 years.
Don Johnson boarded an Amtrak to Chicago on November 15, 1996, and didn’t look back for 14 years. He left a note with his accountant that stated; “I am writing you well in advance. . . . Someday you will know the whole story, but right now I can’t risk it. . . .I know it’s the wrong (option), but I just couldn’t figure out how else to get out of the corner I painted myself into. . . . I pray to God that something good will come of what I’ve done.” He also left notes and money with relatives.
He later left a message on the family answering machine. They traced the call to Downers Grove, a suburb of Chicago.
Johnson had taken $1,000 increments from retirement accounts totalling $800,000. No one knows where he was or what he was doing for 14 years. He could have stayed hidden forever, but on October 9, 2009, he walked into the LaCrosse police department and turned himself in.
He said he realized he had three choices, suicide, prison, or flee. He fled.
In May 2010, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Johnson’s story is a little different from most. He wasn’t living a lavish lifestyle. He didn’t have a mansion or fancy cars. But he had enough money to stay gone for 14 years. Did he run out of money or did changing times and technology cause the change of heart? Or did he really feel bad for stealing the money? We will never know.