The woman accused of stealing nearly $4 million from the Northern Kentucky Convention & Visitors Bureau (Meet NKY) pleaded not guilty on Monday morning.
Bridget Johnson, 58, had worked at the bureau for two decades before she was arrested in November, accused of sending checks online to several people that she claimed were vendors for the bureau. The investigation found that the checks were sent to real people but that those people were never vendors to the bureau and never provided any payment for the service they received.
Johnson then allegedly deleted the fraudulent transactions on the bureau's monthly bank statement from BB&T that she would present to the board of directors.
She is accused of using a bureau computer for her alleged crimes.
The Kenton County Grand Jury received the case and indicted Johnson late last month.
Johnson appeared in Kenton District Court on Monday to face the indictment and entered her not guilty plea. A trial date was set for March 20.
In a statement issued late last week, NKYCVB board chairman Tim Bray said that the organization is working closely with Kenton County Commonwealth's Attorney Rob Sanders as well as local and national law enforcement agencies as they continue their investigation, and also referenced "alleged accomplices."
No other suspects have been identified publicly.
The bureau is also attempting to recover missing funds and implement new policies and procedures for handing the organizations finances, said Bray, who by day is the director of communications at the Kentucky Speedway.
NKYCVB hired attorney Jeff Mando of Covington-based firm Adams, Steptner, Woltermann & Dusing to lead a funds-recovery effort and to provide overall legal guidance, Bray said.
Mando engaged Cincinnati-based accounting firm Barnes Dennig to assist, and the firm is conducting a comprehensive forensics investigation and will recommend policies and procedures to improve accounting practices at the bureau.
"We recognize that the financial losses incurred by the CVB because of this criminal activity are considerable; we are firmly focused on restoring public trust in our organization while continuing to support our important mission of attracting conventions, meetings, and visitors to our region," Bray said in a statement. "Despite this regrettable incident, the CVB and our hospitality partners continue to bring record-number visitors to the Northern Kentucky region. Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties account for more than 20 percent of all visitor expenditures in Kentucky and more than 10 percent of all hospitality jobs in the state.
"Our destination continues to thrive and prosper thanks to the collective efforts of the CVB, our hospitality partners, and our community."