Judge puts St. George millionaire's planes, boat, classic cars up for sale
Jud Burkett The Spectrum
HURRICANE — Peppy planes, classic cars and a boat named "Animal House" are among the big boy toys once belonging to a St. George millionaire that a federal judge has ordered to be put up for sale.
The Federal Trade Commission seized millions of dollars in assets from Jeremy Johnson and his company iWorks as part of its case against him alleging Internet marketing fraud. FTC attorneys say Johnson bilked online consumers of $275 million by charging their credit cards for services they didn't sign up for.
Johnson, according to court documents, lived a lavish lifestyle, owning multiple houses, businesses, helicopters, airplanes, classic and high-end cars — including a Ferrari and Lamborghini — and houseboats.
The FTC filed a civil complaint against him last December and obtained a court order to freeze his assets and place them in receivership. A federal judge authorized the receiver to auction off or place for sale many of Johnson's possessions, including land or homes in Utah, California and Belize.
Johnson opposed the sale because none of the items are perishable, the depressed economy favors waiting and the assets should remain in place until the case is decided, according to court documents. He also argued the classic cars would appreciate in value if kept in storage rather than sold now.
The judge concluded that Johnson's objections were without merit. He ruled that maintaining, insuring and storing the assets costs money and that they should be converted to cash to be held by the receiver.
The items can't be sold for less than two-thirds of their appraised value, according to the court order.
Statewide Auction Company will conduct the first sale at its Hurricane warehouse Saturday. A public preview will be held Friday.
Among the items up for grabs are five classic cars — a ′52 Ford Customline, a '57 Chevy Bel Air convertible, a ′68 Oldsmobile 442, a ′72 Chevelle SS and ′72 Chevy Nova SS.
Aaron Shelton, a partner in the auction company, said the Nova with its supercharged motor built for racing is the highlight of automobile sale. He estimated its value at $79,000. In all, he expects the cars to bring in as much as $150,000.
Other vehicles for sale are a Honda Pilot dune buggy and a custom-made snow plane.
Assorted home and office furnishings, flat screen TVs, computers, artwork and business machines will also be offered at the auction.
Shelton said the sale is the first of several he expects in the case. "We have a few more rounds of items to auction," he said.
Big-ticket items including the aircraft, houseboats and real property will not be sold at the auction, but listed with brokers for sale on the open market.
In addition the civil FTC complaint, Johnson faces criminal charges.
In June, federal authorities arrested Johnson and indicted him with mail fraud in connection with his online businesses. Considered a flight risk, he had been in jail until last week when his family and friends posted a $2.8 million property bond to ensure his appearance at future court hearings.
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