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Attorneys: 'Rogue' employee took computer needed for Jeremy Johnson case

Attorneys: 'Rogue' employee took computer needed for Jeremy Johnson case

(Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News/File)

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SALT LAKE CITY — An attorney for St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson says a former iWorks employee took a computer from Johnson's company that contains information necessary for his defense.

Chelsea Koch told a federal judge Wednesday that a "rogue" worker took the computer after the Federal Trade Commission shut down Johnson's Internet marketing enterprise, iWorks, in 2011. The action stopped the company from issuing paychecks and some workers took equipment as payment, she said.

The worker initially worked with the court-appointed documents manager in the case, but is now uncooperative, Koch told U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Warner.

"I don't think that's legal to just take property and call it good," Warner said.

The judge advised Koch to get a court order for the computer and offered to do what he could to help.

That was the only issue that came up in a hearing on the status of the criminal case against Johnson and four associates. The case has moved slowly due to the large volume of documents prosecutors have collected as evidence and that Warner describes as a "haystack."

I don't think that's legal to just take property and call it good.

–U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Warner

The documents manager has built a database for the records that defense attorneys can now access.

"Hopefully, you can move forward briskly at this point," Warner said.

In March 2013, Johnson, Scott Leavitt, Bryce Payne, Ryan Riddle and Loyd Johnston were named in an 86-count indictment alleging that they committed fraud in connection with iWorks.

Prosecutors allege the company used numerous websites to tout bogus government grants that were available to stop foreclosures and pay down debt and pay for personal expenses such as groceries, home repairs and utilities. Online customer who signed up for the "risk-free" offers were repeatedly charged monthly fees and enrolled in other programs without their knowledge, according to court documents.

A four-week jury trial is scheduled in March 2015 before Judge David Nuffer. Warner set another status hearing for Jan. 13.

Johnson is a central figure in the criminal charges against former Utah Attorneys General Mark Shurtleff and John Swallow. County prosecutors allege they accepted gifts from Johnson, including use of his private jet and luxury houseboat.

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