TURTLE CREEK (KDKA) – A former manager with the West Penn Allegheny Health System appeared in court today.
Ira Johnson is accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars so he could gamble.
Johnson is now awaiting his formal arraignment after appearing in court in Turtle Creek.
“He’s not walking around with a stack of money hidden somewhere,” attorney Milton Raiford said.
Johnson’s attorney said while his client is accused of stealing over $700,000, he’s no rich man and he’s dealing with a heavy burden.
“I think there’s a strong addiction against my client. I think he’s carrying a heavy burden,” Raiford said.
Johnson, who was arrested in February, had been working at WPAHS as a manager of patient financial services and manager of revenue and cash receipts until he was fired in 2011.
This investigation into the thefts started in 2007 after a few thousand dollars went missing.
According to the criminal complaint, in the years that followed, over $170,000 in checks and over $540,000 in insurance were swindled into a PNC Bank account in Johnson’s name.
The grand total was over $714,000.
“What this underscores is that a lot of people don’t consider a gambling addiction as serious as a drug addiction or an alcohol addiction, but it’s an addiction,” Raiford said.
Documents show, according to court papers, that thousands were spent at area casinos. Raiford said his client has been out on bond and is currently seeking help for his gambling addiction problem, which is what he needs.
“Unfortunately, a lot of times we don’t get to addicted people until they commit a criminal act,” Raiford said.
At the time of Johnson’s arrest, WPAHS released a statement saying they had made changes so this does not happen again.
Johnson is due back in court on April 22.