CALDWELL COUNTY, N.C. — A beloved chorus teacher in Caldwell County is accused of embezzling from the booster club.
According to deputies, South Caldwell High School teacher Justin Johnson allegedly took tens of thousands of dollars from the South Caldwell Choral Booster Account. He was arrested and charged with felony embezzlement.
Students said they would raise money for the booster club by selling concessions at games and other events. According to the arrest warrant, Johnson oversaw that money.
Deputies said they are still investigating the case and they’re working to determine where the money ended up. They believe it was taken over a two-year period.
Channel 9′s Dave Faherty talked to students who were shocked to hear the news. One student said he fought back tears when he learned of the arrest.
“I was shocked,” Elijah Smith said. “I actually found out while I was at work and it actually brought a tear to my eye ‘cause I didn’t know how to feel about it.”
Others said Johnson was well-liked and often made the morning announcements at the school.
“Personally, Johnson, he was like a dad to me,” Smith said. “I looked at him as a father figure. And I genuinely loved the personality that Johnson gave off.”
On the South Caldwell High Choral Facebook page, you can hear students singing and their teacher encouraging donations. The choral club sang not only at their school, but across Caldwell County, and even traveled to New York earlier this year.
A parent of a choral student spoke with Faherty, asking not to show his face.
“Would have never have expected to hear that,” he said. “He just don’t seem like the type of guy that would be in it for money. He looks like he’s in it for the right reasons.”
“It’s very heartbreaking because a lot of people at the school cared about him, and he was really doing great things for our choral program,” student Cailey Suter said.
Caldwell County Schools said Johnson has been working at South Caldwell as a chorus teacher since 2018. The school district said it reached out to law enforcement after learning about the missing money earlier this week and suspended Johnson with pay.
“No one can believe it,” said student Dillon Annas. “Kids walked in this morning and said ‘is this real?’”
Faherty also learned the district had an emergency meeting at the education center about a personnel matter. He’s working to learn more about what took place then.
(WATCH BELOW: Register of deeds maintains innocence a year after embezzlement charge)
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