Ex-millionaire's plea deal unravels in attempt to protect family, new A.G.
No reason for John Swallow to be on no-indictment list, spokesman says
"I told the prosecutor, 'I'll put a bullet in my head if that's what it takes. You can put as much (prison) time in there as you want, put anything in there that you want, and I'll tell the judge I did it. I'll do whatever it takes to stop you,'" Johnson told the Deseret News.
Barlow said no threats were made.
Before court on Friday morning, Johnson filed a report with Salt Lake police, alleging that Ward committed extortion. Police confirmed they received the report and assigned it a case number but had no further comment.
Federal authorities initially charged Johnson with one count of mail fraud for his company sending one of its products, a CD containing information about how individuals could obtain government grants, to a customer. That charge would have been changed to bank fraud and money laundering as part of the proposed plea deal.
The criminal charge came after the FTC filed a civil complaint against Johnson in December 2010.
The FTC alleges iWorks lured Internet consumers into "trial" memberships for bogus government grants and moneymaking schemes and then repeatedly charged their credit cards for programs they didn't sign up for, totaling nearly $300 million.
Johnson has steadfastly maintained his innocence and refused to sign a settlement agreement with the FTC.
The St. George man gained prominence in January 2010 when he flew his helicopter to Haiti the day after a massive earthquake devastated Port-Au-Prince and surrounding cities almost three years ago to the day.
Along with some iWorks co-workers and friends, Johnson flew injured children to hospitals and dropped food to homeless Haitians.
"That place changed me. I came away from there cursing God. Carrying these little kids that are all broken and bleeding and I didn't understand why already they're so poor," he said, his voice filling with emotion even three years later.
"A bad thing happened to them. That's something that helps me do what I'm doing because no matter how bad it is for me, I could have been born there. God forbid, what would my life have been like then?"
Johnson lived an extravagant lifestyle when iWorks was at its peak. He owned airplanes, helicopters, boats, classic cars and high-end sports cars. He maintained several homes. He started buying gold, some of which he once buried in the southern Utah desert because he worried about a break-in at his house.
In addition to his passion for flying helicopters, Johnson had a large appetite for gambling. He lost about $3 million in Las Vegas casinos and playing online poker.
It all came crashing down when a federal court seized his assets in the civil case in January 2011 and with his arrest six months later in the criminal case. Johnson was at the Phoenix airport en route to Costa Rica to start a helicopter touring company when federal agents stopped him.
Johnson spent three months in jail until his family and friends put up a $2.8 million property bond to secure his release pending resolution to the criminal case. He continues to live in a large St. George home but said he has fallen $350,000 in arrears on the mortgage.
He did not tell his wife or family that he planned to plead guilty Friday. Although an uncle showed up part way through the hearing, Johnson arrived at the courthouse with only a close friend and his attorney.
"My family has no idea what I am doing because if they did they would have absolutely come apart and do everything in their power to stop it," he said before going to court.
Johnson said he was prepared to go prison to protect his family and friends.
"It wasn't until the government threatened to start hurting people that I cared about that I was willing to give that up," he said.