His father was my Brigade Commander in the 82nd. When this crap first surfaced; I had a bad feeling about it...
From Army Times
O-6 faces bigamy, fraud, adultery charges
By Joe Gould - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Jun 5, 2012 13:44:32 EDT
The brigade commander seemed born to one day wear stars on his shoulder boards. The son of a distinguished Army general, his own career — including war-zone command of the esteemed 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team — had soared impressively toward flag rank.
Now it’s all in tatters. Fired from command, his next battle will come at court-martial June 11, when he will fight charges that he defrauded the Army out of tens of thousands of dollars to “frolic” with an Iraqi mistress, whom he allegedly made his wife even though he already was married.
If charges prove true, Col. James H. Johnson III is a cheat and a bigamist.
In all he is charged with six counts of violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and 27 specifications. Among them: forgery, fraud, lying and bigamy.
The woman who was his sweetheart while he was a cadet at West Point — and then his wife and mother to his two children — said she was sure her husband was unfaithful but had no clue he had wed his alleged mistress.
Kristina Johnson, 47, said she was shocked to learn about the second marriage, finding out only after being denied Tricare health coverage. She said it was then that she discovered a divorce certificate she suspects was doctored in the process of transferring benefits to the Iraqi woman. She said Army investigators informed her that her husband had married again.
Dismissal, divorce for 173rd Airborne leader (April 11, 2011)
Commander of 173rd Airborne relieved of duty (March 26, 2011)
“If I wasn’t living this, I would think it’s all made up,” Mrs. Johnson told Army Times in a telephone call from her home in upstate New York.
The bigamy charge was the latest the Army filed against Col. Johnson, already facing fraud charges resulting from an Army investigation that began in February 2011.
He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and his attorney has declined comment in an email to Army Times.
A Flathead County, Mont., official confirmed to Army Times that Col. Johnson married a woman named Haveen All Adin Al Atar on Nov. 9, 2011, by double proxy, meaning neither party was present. Montana is the only state that allows double proxy marriages.
Army Times has been able to identify — through several sources — that Al Atar is the daughter of Col. Johnson’s cultural adviser in Iraq. She has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
Mrs. Johnson told Army Times she has been called to testify about the alleged bigamy at her husband’s court-martial in Kaiserslautern, Germany.
She said Col. Johnson provided a phony “certificate of divorce” to the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System to have her removed from his Tricare benefit. She provided the document to Army Times, and said her signature was forged on it.
Court officials in Florida and New York, where the Johnsons have divorce filings, told Army Times the marriage has not been dissolved and the matter is not concluded.
Col. Johnson’s legal troubles began in January 2011, when Mrs. Johnson emailed Army authorities detailing her suspicions about her husband’s activities. Two months later, following a 15-6 investigation, the Army stripped him of command of the “Sky Soldiers” brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy, and Germany.
Col. Johnson allegedly spent more than $23,000 over more than two years to visit and travel with his alleged mistress, as detailed in travel vouchers appended to the Army 15-6.
Army investigators have probed Col. Johnson’s role in the brigade cultural adviser’s contract, as well as contracts for windmills, bottled water and an ice factory in Afghanistan, Army sources said.
Although Al Atar’s father was under contract as a cultural adviser while the unit was in Afghanistan, several brigade staff members told investigators that the cultural adviser did not provide any information products, the investigation found.
The investigation also found:
• Col. Johnson conducted an “inappropriate relationship” with an Iraqi woman —who Army Times independently identified as as Haveen Al Atar — and he misused government resources “for his frolic and detour into the Netherlands” with her.
• Eighteen of 26 travel vouchers he submitted between September 2008 and January 2011 were fraudulent. He took Al Atar on trips to Germany, France, Belgium and Jordan, the report says.
• Col. Johnson misused government resources to provide her family in the Netherlands with rides to job interviews, trips to the Middle East and a government cellphone with a bill estimated at $45,000.
• He signed travel orders that falsely indicated the woman held a secret clearance to enable her to travel with him.
In all, Col. Johnson is charged with 27 violations of the UCMJ.
According to a U.S. Army Europe spokesman, Johnson was charged with:
• Four violations of Article 92, or failure to obey orders.
• Four violations of Article 107, or making false official statements.
• One violation of Article 123, or forgery.
• Eight violations of Article 132, or fraud against the United States.
• Six violations of Article 133, or conduct unbecoming an officer.
• Four violations of Article 134, a general article, which in this case covers the alleged bigamy and adultery, according to an Army source.
An officer’s pedigree
It’s an inglorious predicament for any soldier, particularly for one of Col. Johnson’s pedigree. A 1986 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he is the son of retired Lt. Gen. James H. Johnson Jr., who led the 82nd Airborne Division during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Col. Johnson has deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, Panama, Korea and Honduras. He commanded the 173rd from October 2008 until his dismissal in Europe 30 months later.
Johnson’s attorney, Lt. Col. Charles Kuhfahl, said in an email “we have no comment as to the pending charges or any comments made by COL Johnson’s estranged wife.”
In his March 2011 rebuttal to the 15-6 investigation, another attorney for Col. Johnson said Mrs. Johnson had “potential motives to fabricate and embellish her allegations,” owing to the couple’s marital dispute.
Mrs. Johnson denied the assertions, saying Army investigators have found evidence beyond what she presented them with.
“If there had been nothing to find, this would have been a dead end,” she said.
Col. Johnson’s alleged second wife, Al Atar, could be reached only through Facebook. After she was asked for comment, she posted a status update that read: “My answer is dont believe anything they told u.”
‘I had to turn him in’
After learning her husband had moved Al Atar into their former home in Vicenza, Mrs. Johnson turned him in to Army authorities. Two months earlier, Col. Johnson had revoked her command sponsorship, forcing Mrs. Johnson to leave Vicenza and return to the U.S., according to the Army’s investigation.
She reported him not as “a woman scorned” but because it was the right thing to do, she said.
“It took me a very long time to make that decision,” said Mrs. Johnson. “I knew the wrongdoing he had done — the fraud, the waste, the abuse — and was he just going to keep doing it more? Who else was going to turn him in?”
Yet if her husband is convicted, she and their two children — ages 16 and 20 — may lose medical and retirement benefits accumulated over his 26-year career.
With his rank and time in service, Col. Johnson’s retirement pay would be worth about $4 million over an average life span.
Mrs. Johnson says whatever the cost, she would not hesitate to make the same decision again. “Is that what we want from an Army leader, that the government pays his gas bills while he sees his mistress and pays for their hotel bills?” she said. “I had to turn him in. No one else was going to do it.”
For the man she had met as a cadet at West Point, who she knew as consistently honest, moral and disdainful of rule-breakers, the thought of his alleged mistress coming and going from his home was alarming, she said.
“I realized he had spun out of control,” she said. “It wasn’t, ‘Our marriage is over, and I’m going to get back at you.’ I had tried my best to get him back on the moral high ground, and I wasn’t able to do it.”
The marriage began to grow rocky after he returned from a 2006 deployment to Iraq as a battalion commander, during which he met the Al Atar family.
He had become secretive, short-tempered and emotionally withdrawn, she said.
“I look back and wonder what the hell happened,” she said. “I look back and see a marked difference.”
Mrs. Johnson said her suspicions her husband was unfaithful were confirmed in late 2008. Her husband visited the Al Atar family in Europe over the holidays, despite her objections. Then he brought the Al Atars to visit them, and she became convinced that Haveen Al Atar and Col. Johnson were having an affair.
“That weekend, it all came to light,” Mrs. Johnson said. “He wouldn’t hug me or kiss me or show affection toward me in front of her. He was freaked out.”
Over the next year or so, she said she learned that her husband was visiting Al Atar in the Netherlands and the two were traveling together. Al Atar had access to his government credit card, and the two had been exchanging affectionate emails, she said. The 15-6 investigation confirms the travel and the credit card charges.
The start of the affair
After Mrs. Johnson came forward, investigators in February 2011 backtracked through court records, photographs, personal emails, pages from Col. Johnson’s planner and travel records that dated back through 2008. All are included in the investigative report, which was completed by an investigating officer assigned to U.S. Army Africa. The 15-6 report was provided to Army Times last year.
During the deployment to Iraq, Col. Johnson developed a “strong bond” with the family and helped relocate them from Iraq to the Netherlands, the report says.
Al Atar’s father, a Kurdish Shiite and high school math teacher, had warned soldiers of impending attacks, which allowed them to be pre-empted, according to a statement in the report. Her mother headed a women’s organization supported by Army operations.
As commander of the Italy- and Germany-based 173rd Airborne Division, Col. Johnson had no business in the Netherlands but visited there every few weeks from fall 2008 to January 2011, the report states. His alleged mistress and her family lived in The Hague, in the Netherlands.
Investigators found that although Col. Johnson’s travel vouchers indicated he was on official business, the receipts from gas stations in the Netherlands or the route there gave him away.
On Dec. 28, 2008, Col. Johnson brought the family from the Netherlands to the 173rd’s brigade ball in Bamberg, Germany, using a government vehicle, the report states. The investigation found that he “improperly” used a government vehicle to ferry them to and from the event.
In the report is a series of December 2009 emails, allegedly between Col. Johnson and an individual whose name is redacted, but Mrs. Johnson identified as Al Atar. One reads, “This is my new email address for work in Afghanistan,” and it closes with the words, “I love you.”
Among other trips, Johnson drove the woman and her mother to job interviews in October 2008 and February 2009, according to the report. On the latter date, he left a family vacation in Paris to drive the woman and her mother from the Netherlands to Heidelberg, Germany. He allegedly filed for reimbursement for the use of a rental car on the trip, the report says.
On a November 2009 visit with the Jordanian military in Amman, the woman accompanied Col. Johnson using travel orders he signed, the report states.
He went to The Hague to get her, the investigation found, and the hotel bills indicate the two shared a room; her bill “appears to be an altered version” of Johnson’s.
Their bills, submitted to the Army for payment, are identical, except that hers indicates she stayed in Room 105 and Col. Johnson’s indicates he stayed in Room 104. Yet a single credit card receipt appears to have been used twice for both —Col. Johnson’s.
In all, Col. Johnson submitted a total of $3,616.04 in hotel, car, flight and per diem expenses for the nine-day trip from Vicenza to Brussels and Amman, and then back.
Al Atar submitted a total of $2,671 in expenses, including the duplicate hotel bill.
Though the couple spent government funds, they did not appear to travel extravagantly. For example, they spent four nights at Le Meridien hotel in Amman at a cost of $732, and had dinner one night at the hotel for about $26.
In April 2010, Col. Johnson booked a trip to Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, for the woman and her mother, where they had a job interview with an Iraqi government official. Included in the investigation is Col. Johnson’s personal letter of recommendation, written on brigade stationary.
When he booked the two-room hotel suite in Sulaymaniyah, he said in an email to the person arranging travel that it was not for business: “You could be a big hero for my family,” he said.
Mrs. Johnson said she ultimately confronted her husband about the alleged affair in September 2009, he confessed to it, and the two underwent marital counseling. For many months, she said, she had faith that he would stop and the marriage would recover.
“I was desperate to keep my family together,” she said. “I didn’t want my marriage to end. I always loved my husband and couldn’t understand what was going on.”
Their marriage never recovered. In January 2011, the same month Mrs. Johnson reported her husband’s relationship and activities to authorities, their domestic strife made headlines in the New York Post.
In papers filed in a New York federal court, Col. Johnson accused her of improper behavior as a leader of the Family Readiness Group, and that her taking the couple’s son to the U.S. had amounted to kidnapping.
By Mrs. Johnson’s account, her husband used his rank and position to orchestrate her removal from their home on post and to force her return to the U.S. He did this, she claims, in an attempt to gain custody of their then-14-year-old son, while freeing Col. Johnson to move his alleged mistress onto the post.
Mrs. Johnson said the latest shock came in December 2011, after she underwent a medical procedure and was told her husband’s insurance no longer covered her.
She said her husband submitted a “certificate of divorce” to have her removed and she learned from Army investigators that he had married Al Atar in November 2011 to provide Al Atar with benefits. She provided the certificate to Army Times, which she said appears to be a heavily doctored version of their 1987 marriage license from the town of Monroe, N.Y. She also showed Army Times a document from the New York court that indicates the divorce is still not final.
From Army Times