Feds set to auction off Jeremy Johnson's business items
Jud Burkett / The Spectrum
Jeremy Johnson's Howard Hughes newspaper

ST. GEORGE Auctioneers are set to sell off an assortment of collector cars, computers, business machines, flat-screen televisions and other items that used to be part of iWorks and other companies principally ran by St. George businessman and fraud suspect Jeremy Johnson.

The defense team for Johnson is challenging the sale, filing appeals with the U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, but as of late Thursday, no stay had been granted.

The items, which auctioneer Tom Erkelens guessed were worth at least $200,000, go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m., at a warehouse at 5099 Wheeler Way in Hurricane.

"There's some unique stuff," said Erkelens, the standing auctioneer for U.S. Bankruptcy Court, describing such items as a 1957 Chevy convertible, "eight or nine" flatscreen televisions and a snowplane (a vehicle that hydroplanes on skis over snow).

Erkelens said there will be a sale preview Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The items come from a building in St. George that is going into foreclosure, as well as a building at the St. George airport. Both used to be part of the network of companies owned and operated by Johnson and his associates.

Johnson and several other defendants are facing charges from the Federal Trade Commission that allege they operated a "far-reaching Internet enterprise" that tricked customers into signing up for memberships or purchasing products or services, then repeatedly charging their credit and debit accounts without authorization.

Johnson's defense team has maintained that their client is innocent, and Johnson has pleaded not guilty to the mail fraud charge.

Travis Marker, the managing attorney for Johnson's defense efforts, said he was still anticipating an appeal.

"It's obviously a premature sale, and we feel like [Johnson] wasn't given a fair shake," Marker said.

U.S. District Judge Kent J. Dawson froze Johnson's assets, as well as those of I Works and other companies, in January. The court-appointed receiver put in charge of the assets plans to use the sale to help cover its own costs.

Another auction is scheduled for Oct. 4 at a former call center in Ephraim, where Erkelens said nearly new equipment will be up for sale.

The receiver's report tells of the difficulties identifying just how many assets belonged to Johnson, other managers, iWorks and other companies - the investigation as of June had identified a "complex web" of 132 entities, including "more than 188 bank accounts" and an additional 22 loan accounts.

The report mentions 31 real properties, including raw land, commercial and residential properties in three states and one in Belize, 11 aircraft, 25 vehicles, a house boat, precious metals and various financial accounts.

The FTC reports that iWorks had revenues of $350 million during the past decade, with nearly $48 million going to Johnson.

Johnson was released from jail last week to await trial, after family and friends put up a $2.8 million bond. He was fitted with a monitoring device, and is not allowed to leave the state unless for court appearances in Las Vegas, according to the stipulations of his release.
Originally published September 22, 2011