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St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson took in about $59 million from his companies that federal authorities allege he used to carry out a massive Internet fraud, a court-appointed receiver says.
Johnson spent the money on an $8 million house reportedly covering 22,000 square feet, about 30 other properties, at least seven aircraft, two houseboats and various cars, according to a report filed Tuesday in federal court in Las Vegas.
Over 10 years, Johnson, his iWorks company and about 60 related entities "tricked" consumers into providing credit and debit card billing information and then billed them about $60 a month in charges to which they never agreed, the Federal Trade Commission alleges in a lawsuit filed in December.
Johnson has denied the allegations. The trustee did not return a phone call seeking comment on the report.
Robb Evans & Associates was appointed by a federal judge and took possession of the companies and their financial records Jan. 14. Johnson's companies shut down in December 2010, the trustee says, apparently in response to the FTC suit.
"Why would you want to keep a business open only to have the government telling you that every dime you generate is going to be taken from you?" said Johnson's attorney, Mike Shaw of St. George, in an e-mail.
Based on a preliminary examination of the companies' records, the report says 99 percent of the profits they generated went to Johnson or to entities he controlled, including ones that owned airplanes and real estate.
Shaw said Johnson was entitled to the profits from his business. "Let's not forget that Jeremy owns these companies," he said. "Isn't it normal for the profits from your company to go to your benefit?"
Much of what was purchased has declined in value. Johnson spent $8 million for land and construction of a home in a gated community in St. George, but its value has sunk to about $4 million, plus a mortgage of about$3 million with SunTrust Bank, the trustee said.
The property also appears to be pledged as collateral for a Santa Monica, Calif., beach house.
Johnson or entities controlled by him purchased 31 properties that are carried on the company's books at a worth of about $30 million but whose value now is estimated at $17.1 million. They have loans against them for $14.5 million.
Seven aircraft five airplanes and two helicopters are listed with a worth of $6.9 million. The trustee also found titles to 16 vehicles.
The report said the trustee has not been able to examine Johnson's personal records nor access his house, but Johnson did escort a representative to a garage at his home that contained two safes. One had guns and ammunition, and the other contained precious metals Johnson said were worth about $500,000, the report said. The trustee's representative hauled away the precious metals.
Shaw admitted Johnson has "substantially depleted" his assets in the past year by hiring lawyers to deal with the FTC investigation.
Johnson contributed $1.5 million to the LDS Church and to a local branch. He also had $2.8 million deposited with a Las Vegas casino but had gambling losses of $1.3 million, the trustee said.
A hearing is scheduled for Thursday in Las Vegas in which the FTC is asking a federal judge for a preliminary injunction that would retain the trustee's oversight and maintain a freeze on assets.
Johnson's attorneys said in court papers that the FTC's motion for a preliminary injunction is "filled with half-truths, distortions and inflammatory rhetoric that are not supported by the evidence."
According to the suit, Johnson's firms used false testimonies to advertise products and misrepresented such things as the availability of grant monies.
Jeremy Johnson's air fleet
According to a court-appointed trustee, Johnson owns these aircraft:
1985 Cheyenne Piper
2009 Piper PA-46-350P
1978 Cessna P-210
1978 Beech Sierra MC-604
1968 Piper Navajo
2008 EC 130 Helicopter
2005 Robinson R-44 II helicopter
Source: Report of court-appointed trustee
O To read the trustee's report, go to: http://bit.ly/fcEXLg