|St. George millionaire pleads not guilty to mail fraud charge|
By Geoffrey Fattah|
KSL 5 TV
SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah philanthropist will get a chance next week to argue for his release from federal custody.
Meanwhile, federal prosecutors are talking about expanding charges against him.
During a hearing in federal court Thursday, Jeremy David Johnson pleaded not guilty to one count of mail fraud. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Johnson, who at one time was considered a multimillionaire, also declared to a federal magistrate judge that he could not afford to hire an attorney and asked for a public defense attorney to be appointed to him. Defense attorney Nathan Crane said all of his client's assets have been frozen.
Assistant U.S. attorney Brent Ward said it is likely that the government will seek an additional grand jury indictment against Johnson within the coming weeks, but they had yet to process hundreds of thousands of documents associated with Johnson's business dealings. Before being indicted on mail fraud last June, the Federal Trade Commission had filed a civil action against Johnson in Las Vegas in connection to his IWorks business.
Crane asked Judge David Nuffer for a hearing to give his client a chance to argue for his release. Ward countered that given the fact that Johnson was arrested while trying to leave the country, plus additional evidence, Johnson should continue to be held in federal custody. Nuffer has scheduled a detention hearing for July 11.
Johnson was arrested last month at the Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Ariz., as we was en route to Costa Rica. Johnson had moved his wife and two children to Costa Rica earlier this year.
Federal investigators say Johnson fueled a lavish and attention-getting lifestyle through a fraudulent business scheme which netted him around $275 million.
The 35-year-old St. George man was known to have purchased expensive homes, a dozen helicopters and planes, gold and silver, even a Ferrari and Lamborghini. He also shared money with his family, friends and LDS Church ward.
Johnson received international attention when he flew one of his helicopters to Haiti last year to provide food relief to starving earthquake victims and rush injured children to hospitals. He was also known to frequently fly search-and-rescue missions for the Washington County Sheriff's Office.
But federal officials contend that Johnson had a dark side, gambling away millions of dollars at high-end casinos in Las Vegas. He also allegedly admitted to a federal agent that he also played online poker and that he had a gambling problem.
Originally broadcast July 7, 2011
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