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ST. GEORGE — A St. George businessman has taken to familiar turf to fight accusations of fraud: the Internet.
One-time multimillionaire Jeremy Johnson went on the offensive against what he sees as "dirty deeds by big government" with a website called evilftc.com where he rails against the Federal Trade Commission investigation of his company I Works. He targets specific FTC attorneys and a federal prosecutor with phrases such as "he missed the class on constitutional rights in law school."
He also uses a photo of Mike Myers' character Dr. Evil as a stand-in for one federal lawyer.
On the site, Johnson posts email exchanges between himself and FTC attorneys, court transcripts and inflammatory rhetoric. He has also set up Twitter and Facebook accounts.
"I and the other defendants in this case have decided that we will no longer remain silent and let you mislead the media with your lies and deceit," he wrote in a recent email to an FTC attorney. "We are compiling documentation to prove that we are innocent of your allegations."
The FTC alleges I Works lured Internet consumers into "trial" memberships for bogus government grants and moneymaking schemes and then repeatedly charged their credit cards fees for programs they didn't sign up for, totaling more than $275 million. Since filing the case in Las Vegas in December, the government has seized Johnson's assets, including luxury cars, helicopters and homes, and sold many of his possessions at auction.
I and the other defendants in this case have decided that we will no longer remain silent and let you mislead the media with your lies and deceit.
–- Jeremy Johnson
Johnson, 35, also faces one criminal count of mail fraud in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City related to I Works. He spent three months in jail on that charge until his family and friends posted a $2.8 million property bond to free him pending trial.
On Sunday, Johnson was arrested on an outstanding warrant for allegedly writing more than $100,000 in bad checks to a Las Vegas casino. He posted bail and was released a few hours later.
Salt Lake attorney Nathan Crane represents Johnson in the criminal case. Johnson now represents himself in the FTC case.
"You're looking at an individual who has had everything taken from him by the federal government and I mean everything," Crane said. "He has a roof over his head, his wife and kids and that's it. He's being forced to take on the U.S. government by himself."
Johnson, he said, is doing the best he can with what he has to defend himself.
"He's chosen to fight back very aggressively against the FTC," Crane said.
Johnson first made headlines for delivering food to earthquake victims in Haiti in January 2010. He also transported injured Haitians and sick orphans to hospitals. He made several trips back to the country in the months following the earthquake.
Johnson said Crane has advised him against doing any media interviews.
On the website, Johnson proclaims his innocence and contends the FTC is doing everything it can to thwart his defense. The agency has offered a settlement, but Johnson refuses to accept it.
"You can keep coming up with new reasons to have me arrested, you can have the receiver continue to harass my friends, family and former business associates, you can even keep filing information with the court filled with your venomous lies, but I will never sign this settlement agreement as it currently stands," he wrote in a email to the FTC.