Tryon man, former state schools superintendent candidate sent to prison

Published 8:00 am Friday, October 5, 2018

A Tryon man who once ran an unsuccessful campaign for North Carolina schools superintendent is heading to prison, according to a release from the office of District Attorney Greg Newman.

Josiah Johnson, 36, was sentenced Wednesday to 38 months in prison. Johnson, who has been in the custody of the Polk County Jail, appeared in the Polk County Superior Court before Judge Gregory Horne, of Watauga County, where the defendant pleaded guilty to three felony counts of obtaining property by false pretense and one felony count of writing and passing a worthless check.

The charges stem from Johnson securing three loans, totaling $60,000, under false pretenses from a Tryon woman. 

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The victim had been friends with Johnson’s mother for many years, and was told by Johnson that he needed a short-term loan to secure a home for his mom in Charleston, South Carolina.  He agreed to pay the victim back when funds from a trust fund could be released, and at double the interest that her bank was paying to her. 

Repayment did not occur, and the defendant made multiple excuses for the delays.  The victim later filed a lawsuit to secure a judgment against Johnson. She was granted a judgment, but has not been able to collect any of her money from him. 

In 2016, Tryon police officer Theda Rickman presented the case to District Attorney Greg Newman’s office, who advised her to charge Johnson.

“I appreciate [the victim] for her courage to come forward in this case,” Newman said. “She has expressed to me personally that she feels completely betrayed by Mr. Johnson. She thinks he used the good name of his mother to secure money and he is apparently very convincing when seeking funds for various projects.

“I further commend the police work by Theda Rickman of the Tryon Police and my assistant prosecutors, Bob Brackett and J.J. Sauve, who prepared the prosecution of the case.” 

Johnson, who previously worked in a civilian capacity with the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office under Rick Davis, for Western Carolina Produce and for the Henderson County Council on Aging, is a graduate of East Henderson High School. In 2008, at 25 years old, he ran for the office of state superintendent of public instruction, losing to incumbent June Atkinson.

In 2014, Johnson was found guilty by a jury in Buncombe County for writing an $18,000 worthless check to a furniture store. He has recently been convicted of defrauding two car dealerships in Buncombe County, and there are current investigations in Henderson County for additional incidents of alleged fraud by Johnson.

The next trial term of Superior Court in Polk County is Nov. 26, 2018.