A Portage woman is being held on $1,500 cash bond, accused of a $10 scam.
Jennifer P. Johnson, 38, was arrested by Portage police on Tuesday night charged with one count of theft by false representation and 10 counts of misdemeanor bail jumping.
Over the preceding two weeks, police had received complaints in Portage about Johnson, who was free on $500 cash bail after an arrest in late January on similar charges, accused of approaching people and knocking on doors in the area asking for money because of sick relatives and broken down vehicles, according to the criminal complaints.
On Feb. 12, according to a Portage police report, Johnson allegedly approached a woman at an East Conant Street apartment at 11:30 p.m., telling her that she needed help because she was the niece of a man who lives in another apartment in the complex, and needed gas money because the man was at work.
The woman told police she gave Johnson $10, though it would be confirmed later that Johnson was not the man’s niece and that he was not at work at the time of the incident.
“This defendant was just released on $2,000 cash in mid-January,” District Attorney Jane Kohlwey said. “That’s $500 on four separate cases she had pending.”
Johnson has a total of nine cases open in Columbia County filed between May 12, 2016, and the most recent, as well as a misdemeanor disorderly conduct case from June 2014. At the time of arrest, between cases in Columbia and Dodge County, Johnson had paid $4,500 in cash bonds.
“I’m not asserting that it is inconsequential or that it doesn’t matter,” said defense attorney Ronald Benavides, “but generally speaking, a $10 theft would be very unlikely to get a nine-month maximum penalty and $10,000 fine just standing alone.”
“There is no question that the court would agree with Mr. Benavides on multiple points if this were the only case,” Judge W. Andrew Voigt said. “Frankly, if it were alleged that someone stole $10, I would be hard-pressed to believe that the district attorney’s office had charged that person with a misdemeanor offense.”
Complicating the issue, Voigt said, was that the allegation was not “standing in isolation,” and he ordered Johnson to be jailed in lieu of $1,500 cash bond. Johnson is scheduled to next appear for a return hearing on June 6.