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Feds to offer plea deal to Jeremy Johnson in fraud case

Laura Seitz/Deseret News

Feds to offer plea deal to Jeremy Johnson in fraud case

By Dennis Romboy | Posted - May 5, 2015 at 12:47 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — Federal prosecutors intend to offer plea deals to St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson and four associates charged in a multimillion Internet fraud case.

Assistant U.S. attorney Robert Lunnen said during a court hearing Tuesday that the government will extend the offers later this month and the defendants will have until June 30 to accept or reject them.

"It's a hard offer. Basically, there's no negotiation," he said.

Lunnen did not describe details of the proposed agreements. Attorneys for the five men gave no indication whether they would consider the offers.

Meantime, attorneys on both sides are preparing for a four-week jury trial scheduled to begin Sept. 14.

Johnson, Scott Leavitt, Bryce Payne, Ryan Riddle and Loyd Johnston are named in an 86-count indictment alleging conspiracy, bank fraud, wire fraud and money laundering in connection with Johnson's former online marketing company, iWorks.

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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 customers who signed up for the "risk-free" offers were repeatedly charged monthly fees and enrolled in other programs without their knowledge totaling nearly $300 million, according to court documents.

Prosecutors charged the five men in March 2013 and initially asked for a trial in April 2014, expressing concerns about the memories of witnesses as the alleged crimes date back at least five years. But the court said the large amount of evidence in the case called for more time.

The Federal Trade Commission filed a civil complaint against Johnson in 2010 and his since shut down iWorks and seized his assets.

Johnson is a central figure in the criminal charges filed last summer 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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Dennis Romboy

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