Federal judge freezes assets of iWorks, Jeremy Johnson in alleged Internet fraud case
SALT LAKE CITY A federal judge in Nevada has temporarily frozen the assets of a multimillionaire St. George businessman who the Federal Trade Commission alleges runs a fraudulent far-reaching Internet enterprise.

U.S. District Judge Kent J. Dawson also appointed a receiver to take control of iWorks and 60 other companies operated by Jeremy Johnson and nine associates. The FTC next week will ask the court to impose those orders for the duration of the case, which could take years to resolve.

"There is good cause to believe that irreparable damage to the court's ability to grant effective final relief for consumers in the form or monetary redress will occur from the sale, transfer or other disposition or concealment by Jeremy Johnson and the corporate defendants of assets or records unless Jeremy Johnson and the corporate defendants are immediately restrained and enjoined by order of this court," Dawson's ruling said.

The FTC last month initiated legal action against iWorks for allegedly scamming consumers out of $275 million by billing them online for products and services they didn't order. A complaint filed in federal court in Las Vegas alleges the company offers bogus moneymaking and government grant opportunities on various websites. Those who sign up for the "risk-free" offers are charged monthly fees and enrolled in other programs without their knowledge, according to the complaint.

Johnson has denied any wrongdoing.

Freezing the assets means Johnson can't sell, trade or otherwise move anything he owns such as stocks, real estate and cash. In addition to Johnson, the order applies to the other defendants: Duane Fielding, Andy Johnson, Loyd Johnston, Scott Leavitt, Scott Muir, Bryce Payne, Kevin Pilon, Ryan Riddle and Terrason Spinks.

The court-appointed temporary receiver would have the power to manage all aspects of the company including removing employees and taking down websites, according to court documents. The defendants also were ordered to provide an accounting of their assets and finances to the receiver.

On Thursday, a federal judge in Salt Lake City approved an FTC motion to intervene in another lawsuit against Johnson and several business partners.

A Nevada man, Chad Elie, claims Johnson owes him $20 million from a profitable joint business venture in 2009. "He believes he didn't get his fair share," said David Hague, Elie's attorney.

Elie, owner of Viable Marketing Corp., had also sought a court order freezing Johnson's assets.

David Hague said after the hearing he intends to negotiate a settlement with the other defendants in Elie's case whose assets are not subject to the freeze.

e-mail: romboy@desnews.com
Originally published Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011