Judge warns Jeremy Johnson about gag order

Thursday , June 13, 2013 - 6:35 PM

Internet Fraud Charges

Indicted St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson walks to the federal courthouse before a hearing...

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A judge warned indicted businessman Jeremy Johnson that he could go back to jail if his wife doesn’t take down a website that criticizes the federal government.

During a hearing in federal court Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Warner said that Sharla Johnson’s website violates the gag order he issued last month.

“I’m not going to have Mr. Johnson’s wife do what he can’t do,” Warner said. “If he wants to divorce his wife and have no legal relationship, that’s a different matter.”

Johnson is accused of 86 counts of fraud and money laundering.

Prosecutors say Johnson’s businesses fraudulently enrolled millions of people in get-rich schemes, charging their credit cards without authorization. The St. George businessman has maintained his innocence.

Four of Johnson’s former business associates are also charged in the case. All have pleaded not guilty.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Burt raised the concerns during Thursday’s hearing. He also told the judge that several social media sites Johnson created to take jabs at the U.S. government have not been taken down.

Johnson’s attorney, Ron Yengich, told Warner that Johnson has done “virtually nothing” since the gag order was issued. He says Johnson and his wife are two independent individuals. Yengich said the judge should alter the order to specifically include family members.

Warner acknowledged he doesn’t have control over Sharla Johnson but said, “I will deal with Mr. Johnson, and you and he aren’t going to like it.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office asked for the order earlier this year, saying Johnson has used the media to publicly besmirch the office. It alleges in court documents that Johnson used Facebook, other websites and Utah media outlets to wrongly accuse the government of misconduct.

Johnson is most known for accusing Utah Attorney General John Swallow of arranging to derail a Federal Trade Commission probe by bribing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Swallow denies the allegations.

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