A Harford County Sheriff’s Office deputy was charged with bribery, theft, and other offenses Thursday and suspended without pay after an internal agency investigation found that he had provided police information to a Baltimore towing and repossession company.
Deputy First Class Todd E. Johnson, 30, of the 400 block of Bonnett Street in Aberdeen was arrested Thursday by detectives with the Sheriff’s Office’s Criminal Intelligence Unit, according to an agency release. Johnson is a seven-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office who had been assigned as a patrol officer to the Southern Precinct, but was on temporary assignment at the Northern Precinct at the time of his arrest.
Johnson faces charges of bribery, theft of National Crime Information Center computer information, willfully distributing a valid NCIC code, and malfeasance in office.
In a statement, Sheriff Jesse Bane called the allegations against Johnson “disappointing and unfortunate.”
“Police are empowered with specific tools and resources to do their job effectively. Misuse of those resources is not only unethical, it is illegal,” he said in the statement. “If these allegations are true then this is an egregious breach of the public trust and can undermine the confidence the public has in law enforcement.”
Working off of a tip received in February by the agency’s Internal Affairs Unit, an investigation found that Johnson had a relationship with Final Notice Recovery and Location, a towing company located on the 4500 block of Curtis Avenue in Baltimore which repossesses vehicles for creditors.
According to the release, Johnson used an agency computer to search the National Crime Information Center database for information on vehicle owners not available to towing companies, and received money in return.
Once Johnson was identified as the subject of the tip in February, Sheriff’s Office spokesman Edward Hopkins said Johnson was moved to other duties which prevented him from “further commission of other crimes or accessing NCIC.” Hopkins said investigators have determined that Johnson’s activities stretched back at least one year, but that detectives were continuing efforts to retrieve additional data.
“There’s a lot of evidence, a lot of data on this,” Hopkins said.
Following his arrest, Sheriff’s Office detectives executed search and seizure warrants at Johnson’s home and at the towing business. Johnson was suspended without pay, and taken to the Harford County Detention Center for processing and was released on his own recognizance.
It was unclear whether any individuals with the towing company would face charges. The Sheriff’s Office will continue to handle the investigation, Hopkins said.
“We are large enough and have the resources within to conduct the investigation,” he said. “Keep in mind that we have layers of oversight to include the State’s Attorney, who has been involved with the case.”
Johnson is also among the defendants named in an ongoing wrongful death lawsuit over the 2009 death of Dwight Madison at the Harford County Detention Center. According to the suit, Johnson was one of two deputies who initially arrested Madison for trespassing in a Bel Air neighborhood.
However, the suit does not allege that he played a part in an incident the next morning when Madison became comabtive with corrections officers, was TASERed, fell, and struck his head on the floor, causing injuries which led to his death.
Johnson is the third Sheriff’s Office deputy in recent years to face criminal charges. Maj. Mark Forwood, the head of the agency’s Criminal Investigations Division, was fired in November 2010 after two different arrests for theft from Home Depot, and was eventually sentenced to 18 months of home detention.
Deputy First Class Mark Jordan was suspended in July following charges of theft from a Wal-Mart in Shrewsbury, Pa. He was charged with an additional count of felony perjury in September after Pennsylvania State Police said he lied about the number of hours of community service he performed as part of a diversion program intended to satisfy the original theft charge. Jordan resigned from the agency on Dec. 20, Hopkins said.