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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

High-Roller Jeremy D. Johnson Arrested

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While not directly linked to the indictments handed down by the DOJ in April, a High Roller from Utah has been arrested and charged with mail fraud. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Salt Lake City announced on Sunday, June 12th that IRS agents had arrested Jeremy D. Johnson of St. George, Utah, at the Phoenix airport, intercepting him before he boarded a plane bound for Costa Rica where it is said he has business interests.

This is not Johnson’s first brush with the law; in 2010, Johnson’s companies were sued by the Federal Trade Commission in Las Vegas. This run in with the law did not however involve gambling, but what the FTC called a nationwide $289 million Internet scam which involved deceptively enrolling unwary consumers in various services including government programs to obtain government grants.

A High Roller in Vegas

Johnson, who has been well known for many years in Utah as a philanthropist, was also exposed as a high roller in Las Vegas during the FTC investigation. During his high flying forays to the gambling capitol of the world, Johnson is said to have lost $1.35 million between 2006 and early 2011 just at Wynn Las Vegas. He also was a regular at several MGM Resorts International properties including Bellagio, Luxor, and MGM Grand, but no figures were available on his wins or losses at those casinos.

The Online Poker Connection

Las Vegas wasn’t the only place Johnson gambled, he also apparently played online poker at Full Tilt where he lost another $1.536 million in April and October 2010. He also allegedly conducted business with internet poker companies, having ties to Chad Elie, a Las Vegas businessman who was indicted in the DOJ’s internet poker bust. Other allegations against Johnson include doing business with another victim of the DOJ’s Black Friday crackdown, SunFirst Bank in St. George, Utah. John Campos, vice chairman and part owner of SunFirst Bank was also indicted in the Black Friday round-up, being charged with among other things, money laundering.

Jamie Hipwell, an IRS criminal investigator assigned to the IRS's Salt Lake City post for the Las Vegas Field Office, was behind Johnson’s arrest Saturday which was implemented after a U.S. magistrate judge in Utah signed a criminal mail fraud complaint against Johnson. Hipwell stated that besides his business interests in Costa Rica, Johnson "has substantial resources in other countries including real estate holdings in Belize and the Philippines."

A federal judge in the Las Vegas civil lawsuit froze Johnson’s assets and appointed a receiver to preserve them. A request by Johnson’s attorneys last month asking the federal court to release funds held by the receiver to allow Johnson to pay for legal costs and living expenses was denied and the receiver has been making plans to sell several of Johnson assets, in part to reimburse those who are said to have lost money in his internet scam. The FTC also rejected Johnson’s plea, due in part to "Johnson’s continuous business relationship with the Vowell brothers – the brothers with whom the Johnson defendants worked to process electronic checks for the on-line poker entities PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker."
Records in two lawsuits state that Johnson and Elie have also had business dealings with the Vowells to which Johnson responded in a court declaration; "I have had numerous business dealings with the Vowells over the last 10-plus years, one of which was that the Vowells provided money transfer services for some of Elite Debit Inc.’s clients. Neither the Vowells nor myself have been indicted for bank fraud, money laundering or any other illegal activity. Apparently, the FTC believes it ought to create undue prejudice through guilt by association."

In a previous court declaration, Johnson said that due to the FTC lawsuit and the activities of the civil lawsuit receiver, Todd Vowell ended a business relationship they both had entered into concerning commercial aircraft operations. In that declaration, Johnson said of Vowell, "He explained to me that the receiver has subpoenaed information from him and he has incurred nearly $200,000 in fees and costs to deal with the subpoenas. He said that many of his business partners will no longer do business with him because of the receiver’s inquiries into his finances. He told me that Wells Fargo has terminated many of his business accounts because of the receivership."

*Photo courtesy of - also find more detailed info on Jeremy Johnson*

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