Law and Order, State Crime Reports

Bookkeeper at Two West Loop Restaurants Arrested for Allegedly Misappropriating More Than $600,000

Blackbird Restaurant
Renee M. Johnson allegedly misappropriated money from the eateries including the Blakbird in Chicago. (Source: Chicago Magazine)

CHICAGO —(ENEWSPF)—April 5, 2018

By: Rosemary Piser

Yesterday, Renee M. Johnson, (60) a former bookkeeper for One Off Hospitality LLC was arrested on a federal fraud charge for allegedly misappropriating more than $600,000 from the eateries.

One Off Hospitality LLC owns several bars and restaurants in Chicago, including the West Loop eateries Blackbird and Avec.  Johnson was a signatory on One Off’s bank accounts, and her duties included processing checks to vendors who provided food, labor and utilities to the restaurants.

According to the federal criminal complaint, Johnson made fraudulent entries in One Off’s accounting system to hide the theft.  She often made a check payable to one of her own personal creditors, but deleted the entry in One Off’s system, the complaint states.  In some instances Johnson cut a check to pay personal expenses, and then quickly cut a new check with the same check number to pay for a legitimate corporate expenditure, according to the complaint. The fraudulent scheme, from 2011 to 2017, caused a loss of approximately $604,113, mostly sustained by Blackbird and Avec.

Johnson, of Chicago, was charged with one count of mail fraud.  She was taken into custody yesterday morning and is scheduled to make an initial court appearance at 3:00 p.m. today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheila M. Finnegan.

Mail fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.  If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.

The public is reminded that a complaint is not evidence of guilt.  The defendant is presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.