Utah man arrested in Phoenix facing fraud charges, says lawyer

Posted by: Phoenix Arizona Criminal Defense Lawyers and Attorneys

A Utah businessman arrested in Phoenix on federal mail fraud charges is facing a detention hearing Wednesday before a federal magistrate.

Authorities say Jeremy David Johnson was transferring planes when he was taken into custody over the weekend at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport by Internal Revenue Service agents.

A federal criminal complaint signed by a Utah magistrate accuses Johnson of sending software from his iWorks company through the mail to consumers, supposedly for a risk-free trial. But prosecutors contend the software signed up thousands of consumers to be billed online for products and services they didn’t order.

Johnson has denied the allegations in the criminal complaint.

Papers filed in Salt Lake City’s U.S. District court say Johnson used false advertising, testimonials and reviews to promote iWorks and dozens of other shell companies, netting more than $350,000 million in sales.

If convicted, Johnson faces 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

The allegations parallel a civil complaint filed in Las Vegas by the Federal Trade Commission last December which accused Johnson and his companies of billing customers for online products that they didn’t order.

He has denied those allegations as well.

Johnson of St. George, Utah, was headed to his other residence in Costa Rica at the time of his arrest.

The 35-year-old Johnson was in Utah on Saturday and would have cooperated with authorities had he known he was being sought, said Travis Marker, an attorney who represents 35-year-old businessman in the FTC case.

“It’s unfortunate that that’s the way it happened,” Marker told The Associated Press. “Clearly we would have cooperated. He’s been very cooperative (with the FTC) the whole time.”

Marker said he anticipates Johnson will be transported to Utah.

Johnson is a well-known Utah philanthropist who has used his personal aircraft to aid state law enforcement agencies with search-and-rescue operations. He has donated generously to charities, including funding a St. George home for boys who said they have nowhere else to go after being pushed out of a southern Utah-based polygamous church.

Johnson also purchased a plane and fly food, doctors and other critical goods to Haiti following the devastating January 2010 earthquake.

Johnson has donated $50,000 to the political campaigns of Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

In 2006 and 2007, Johnson wrangled with the Utah Division of Consumer Protection, which cited iWorks for alleged deceptive and fraudulent practices. The citations were dismissed after the company agreed to alter its sales tactics and pay refunds to unhappy customers.

The Securities and Exchange Commission also charged Johnson in 2001 with making false statements, after he recommended that investors buy stock in a company without divulging he was a stockholder. The case was settled without an admission of wrongdoing.
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