Accused Utah scammer vows to expand fight online against FTC
Jeremy Johnson says he plans to step up his battle against the Federal Trade Commission after a judge ruled the St. George businessman did not have to take down websites that disparage the agency and its attorneys over a lawsuit alleging he operated a massive Internet fraud.
U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hunt of Las Vegas last week directed the FTC to work with Johnson to remove information on the sites that implies affiliation with the agency, such as on Johnson's evilftc.com and others named for the attorneys representing it. Hunt also ordered Johnson to stop using email addresses that make messages appear as though they are from the FTC, and he ruled that website using the name of the court-appointed receiver be disabled.
Johnson, his I Works company, related entities and associates were sued by the FTC in December 2010 over allegations that they were operating or contracting with online marketing companies that used false claims, fabricated testimonials and offered bogus products to lure consumers into making purchases. After consumers paid a minimal fee, their credit or debit cards were charged high monthly or one-time fees they had not agreed to or that were not properly disclosed, the complaint said.
But Johnson has maintained and reiterated last week that the allegations are bogus, arguing that he is fighting back with websites such as evilftc.com to expose the false claims by the regulatory agency, including those about a product he sold that purported to teach consumers how to apply for government grants that could be used for personal expenses.
"The government makes these claims that we misled people, and there's no government grants and the programs are worthless, and we address all those issues and provide documents showing it's lies, it's not true," Johnson said.
The FTC had sought an emergency order to prohibit Johnson from posting statements that it contended misrepresented an affiliation with the agency, providing as an example an evilftc.com tweet that said the site was "working with Federal Trade Commission to solve a number of legal cases." It also wanted the judge to require that sites bearing the names of FTC attorneys display blank pages, in effect taking them down, or transfer those domains to the control of the court-appointed receiver.
Johnson has been acting as his own attorney in the case after the FTC obtained a court order freezing all his and his company's assets and appointing a receiver to oversee them.
He also has pleaded not guilty to a criminal mail fraud charge for his operation of I Works.
Johnson said last week he was railroaded by the FTC after he voluntarily provided the agency with company records the agency sought as part of an investigation into I Works. The agency then used his cooperation to persecute him, Johnson claimed.
"The problem is the government doesn't care who's right or wrong," he said. "If we would have known this is how the government does things, we would have acted differently."
One of the allegations the evilFTC.com website seeks to counter is that Johnson used false testimonials to promote products. Included is a testimonial from a Utah woman who wrote after she received a grant.
The website posts her letter and a copy of a check from a church group called New Frontiers for Families.
Johnson said in an email that she used the I Works program to get the grant. But in a sworn declaration prepared by the FTC she says she never used the program and never authorized the use of a picture of her daughters because she was in hiding from her abusive and dangerous husband.
Johnson insisted in an email last week that the use of the testimony was legitimate.
"The point with [the woman] is that the government claims she did not get any grant and was used as a false testimonial," he said. "The truth is she sent us the pictures and the thank you letter and we used her testimonial."
In another declaration filed by the FTC, former I Works employee Devan Partridge said Johnson came up with the idea of providing money to New Frontiers for Families for a "grant-a-day" program whose recipients would then be used to provide testimonials about successfully using the I Works grants program.
Johnson disputes the accuracy of both declarations, saying those involved were influenced by the FTC.