Jeremy Johnson's request for access to funds denied
Jeremy Johnson

Jeremy Johnson

ST. GEORGE - Accused of scamming thousands out of their money through online money scams, St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson continues to sit in an Arizona jail, having lost access to his fortune.

Now, the one-time philanthropist, known in Southern Utah for using his helicopters to help with search and rescue missions, may also lose his home and a number of other assets.

SunFirst Bank asked the court on Wednesday to issue a foreclosure on Johnson's $3 million home, after a federal judge last week denied Johnson's emergency request for access to his fortune in order to pay for legal fees and living expenses.

U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt, in Las Vegas, ruled on Friday that Johnson could not have the funds he was seeking, which were used to fund "a fiscally irresponsible lifestyle."

Johnson was asking for funds to help cover $27,000 per month in living expenses alone, including a $16,600 monthly payment for his St. George home and $2,600 monthly for gardening.

The judge also questioned whether Johnson has been using funds that should be frozen. The Federal Trade Commission, which filed the original complaint against Johnson, froze his assets in February, and he contended he has been living on his wife's $130,000 savings account. However, court documents say Johnson has been traveling internationally in the interim, living a lavish lifestyle that included a Memorial Day weekend on a million-dollar houseboat on Lake Powell.

Travis Marker, Johnson's attorney, said Wednesday his client does not have any hidden assets or access to other illicit funds.

"What they're using is above board," he said.

Johnson has been in custody in Arizona since federal agents arrested him June 11 at an airport in Phoenix, where he was about to board a plane to Costa Rica, where he also has a home.

Now he awaits a transfer to Utah, where Marker said he would look to reconvene for a detention hearing, where the court could consider a number of options for Johnson as the case proceeds, including releasing him on his own recognizance, or holding him on house arrest.

Marker said that while court documents have alluded to Johnson's ability to move internationally, he has not shown any indication that he would be a flight risk, and that it would be "unconscionable" if the court were to deny bail and keep Johnson in prison.

Court documents have indicated Johnson has access to extensive resources in other countries, including helicopters and other vehicles, and property in Belize and the Philippines.

"If the court just denied bail, in our mind that would be looking past some other options we might have to alleviate some of those concerns," Marker said.
Originally published June 23, 2011