Landlord confesses to hidden camera, extortion

Kent County

ALPINE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A 66-year-old landlord is facing prison time after he confessed to setting up a hidden camera in the room of a tenant and then using the video to try to extort her for sex.

The official charge is called capturing images of an unclothed person. It is a crime taken seriously by police because it doesn’t just impact the victim, but also has a chilling effect on all of us.

John Michael Johnson faces up to 10 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to trying to force a woman renting a room at this Alpine Township mobile home into having sex with him, threatening her with secretly recorded images of in her bedroom.

According to Kent County sheriff’s detectives, Johnson used a device that can be ordered online for as little as $60.

“The spying itself can be done so much more covertly than it ever could be before that it’s becoming difficult to detect,” Kent County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Joel Roon said.

And more high-end devices are available, making detection even more difficult.

“Even we have to send it to a lab to tell us this is a recording device. It’s just not that obvious to be even able to tell when it’s sitting in your own hands,” Roon said.

In September, the woman told investigators that Johnson sent her text messages that included images of her with a man and saying he would expose the affair publicly if she did not have sex with him.

Among the text messages were statements like, “You will be naked and from now on you will obey only me” and “Get used to following orders.”

“The extortion piece in this case is unique. I think it’s more common that the suspect collect the video or images and save them for themselves without the victim ever knowing,” Roon said.

In this case, the victim was able to help investigators find the spying device. Johnson allegedly confessed, claiming he wanted to end the affair and force his tenant to move.

The victim did not want to speak at length, but told 24 Hour News 8 her sense of safety has been shattered.

“The frequency of these cases have certainly gone up in the last decade or so,” Roon said.

Authorities say they take high-tech spying cases seriously.

“When there’s an invasion of privacy or when someone loses their privacy, there’s a shockwave that travels not only through that person’s life, but through the lives of everyone that’s aware,” Roon said. “When you hear of a dressing room case, the next time you’re in a dressing room, you feel that.”

He says staying alert and trusting your instincts is the best defense.

“If they suspect an item is out of place for some reason — like that’s an odd place for a smoke detector or that’s an odd place for whatever — we want people to follow their gut,” he said.

Johnson remains free on bond and is scheduled for sentencing Feb. 5.

24 Hour News 8 reached out to Johnson and his attorney for comment, but did not hear back Thursday.

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