Utah businessman Jeremy Johnson is resentenced to spend more than 7 years in prison instead of 11

Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune Jeremy Johnson comments to media as he leaves Federal Court in Salt Lake City March 25 Friday after being found guilty of making false statements to a bank.

Jeremy Johnson was sentenced to serve more than 11 years in federal prison two years ago, but it turns out he won’t spend that much time behind bars after all.

The high profile St. George businessman is currently locked up for providing false information to a bank. A jury in 2016 acquitted him of 78 other charges that included bank fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.

In April, the 10th U.S. Circuit reversed Johnson’s sentence and sent the case back to the U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City. The appeals court found that U.S. District Judge David Nuffer erred by enhancing the sentence based on a finding that Johnson received more than $1 million as a result of his offenses. Prosecutors had failed to prove that Wells Fargo Bank received or relied on Johnson’s false statements in releasing funds, according to the court.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Dee Benson resentenced Johnson to a little more than seven years behind bars, saying he saw some humility in the man as he gave a tearful apology in court.

Johnson, handcuffed and wearing a jail jumpsuit, cried Wednesday as he described his failed business dealings — that led to the government taking down his business, putting a thousand of his employees out of work.

He said he was initially angry when he was first sentenced but has had an “attitude adjustment” since he started serving his prison term.

“I don’t believe I’m a victim,” he said.

Prosecutors had argued that Johnson’s sentence should remain at 11 years. Defense attorneys had asked that he be released that day, arguing that there were no victims in the case because the banks involved in the transactions did not lose any money.

After six weeks of testimony and presentation of evidence in early 2016, a federal jury convicted Johnson of the false information counts in connection with his marketing company called iWorks.

Johnson’s legal troubles began in 2010, when the Federal Trade Commission launched an investigation of iWorks, which was selling information such as how to apply for government grants for personal expenses and how to earn income from Google AdWords. The matter eventually led to criminal charges against Johnson and two associates.

Johnson and former iWorks manager Ryan Riddle were convicted of providing false information to Wells Fargo Bank, while accountant Scott Leavitt was acquitted of all 86 charges. Prosecutors said the false statements were made to obtain merchant accounts that were used to collect credit card payments for the marketing company’s products after its other accounts were shut down because of excessive chargebacks by consumers.

Riddle, who was convicted of six counts of making false statements, was sentenced to five years in prison, a term that included an enhancement that applies if the defendant is a manager or supervisor and the criminal activity involved five or more participants. He also appealed, arguing that none of the people he supervised was a participant in the crime.

The 10th Circuit also reversed Riddle’s sentence and sent the case back to District Court for “more specific findings regarding the presence of subordinate participants in the offenses.”

Riddle was resentenced in August to four years behind bars.

Johnson was at the center of one of Utah’s biggest political scandals that drove Utah Attorney General John Swallow from office and engulfed his predecessor, Mark Shurtleff.

Johnson alleged in 2013 that then-newly elected Swallow had taken part in a plot to bribe a powerful senator on Johnson’s behalf. Swallow denied involvement.

Both Swallow and Shurtleff faced multiple criminal charges related to an allege pay-to-play scheme in the attorney general’s office — but neither man was convicted. A prosecutor dropped the case against Shurtleff and Swallow was acquitted at trial.