BREAKING NEWS: Local entrepreneur and search and rescue pilot arrested by IRS special agents in Phoenix
Jud Burkett / The Spectrum
Jeremy Johnson

Washington County Sheriff's Department Search and Rescue pilot Jeremy Johnson looks out the window of his helicopter as he flies over the flood waters on the Virgin River Dec. 21, 2010.

ST. GEORGE – One-time millionaire, sometimes-philanthropist, alleged internet scam artist and St. George resident Jeremy Johnson was arrested Saturday afternoon in Phoenix on a mail fraud charge.

U.S. Internal Revenue Service agents arrested Johnson at an airport in Phoenix where he was on his way to Costa Rica, where he owns a home, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The longtime St. George resident, who was charged earlier this year by the Federal Trade Commission with defrauding customers out of $270 million, was charged Saturday with one count of mail fraud for allegedly selling CDs through the mail on how to apply for government grants to pay for personal expenses.

Johnson is well-known in the local community for assisting in local search and rescue operations with his helicopters, but questions about his business practices arose earlier this year with the charges from the FTC.

The agency froze Johnson’s and his company iWorks’ assets in February, alleging that Johnson and nine other defendants made millions through iWorks and related umbrella companies, "luring consumers into 'trial' memberships for bogus government-grant and money-making schemes, and then repeatedly charging them monthly fees for these and other memberships they never signed up for."

According to the release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Johnson could have an initial appearance on the mail fraud complaint on Monday in Phoenix. The maximum penalty for the charge is 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

The charging documents mention that Johnson has access to resources in other countries, including access to helicopters and other vehicles and property in Belize and the Philippines, in addition to his home in Costa Rica.
Originally published June 11, 2011