Jeanie Kay Johnson sentenced to probation and ordered to pay restitution

Jeanie Kay Johnson sentenced to probation and ordered to pay restitutionFormer Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce office manager Jeanie Kay Johnson, who pleaded guilty in June to charges in connection with her alleged embezzlement of more than $200,000, has been sentenced to 36-months of probation and ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution.

Johnson Charged With 15 Felonies, Pleads Guilty to Three

Johnson was originally charged with 15 felonies in connection with the alleged embezzlement, including engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity, theft, communications fraud and obstructing justice.  However, as part of a plea agreement, Johnson pleaded guilty to only three felony counts: reduced third-degree felony counts of theft and communications fraud, and third-degree felony obstruction of justice.  The other twelve remaining counts were dismissed.

Johnson Embezzled More Than $200k, Covered Up Fraud

Johnson was hired as an office manager by the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce in 2005.  Prosecutors say that between February 2011 and December 2013, Johnson embezzled more than $200,000 from the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce.  Johnson then hid the missing money for a number of years by providing false financial reports to the Chamber’s Board of Directors.  According to prosecutors, when discrepancies were discovered in the Chamber’s financial reports, Johnson logged into the Chamber’s computer system and deleted the faulty financial information in order to cover up her fraud.

Johnson Fired Following Investigation, Chamber Vows New Controls Will Prevent Similar Problem in the Future

After the Chamber undertook an investigation into Johnson’s alleged embezzlement, the Chamber fired Johnson and instituted a number of changes to its financial policies and procedures.  The Chamber said in the wake of the investigation into Johnson that it “is confident its financial situation is sound and secure with the new controls in place to ensure the proper care and handling of funds contributed by its members and sponsors.”

Johnson Pleads Guilty to 3 Felony Counts, Remaining 12, Including UPUAA charges Dismissed

As noted, Johnson agreed to plead guilty to three felonies in exchange for the government agreeing to drop the remaining 12 felony counts against her, which included 11 counts of communications fraud and one count of engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity.  Prior to her guilty plea hearing, a statement of defendant in support of guilty plea was filed with the court.  As part of the statement in advance of plea, Johnson agreed to the following elements of the crimes for which she was pleading guilty:

In Utah County, Utah, on or about January 1, 2011 and October 1, 2015, I defrauded my employer by submitting financial reports I knew to be incorrect.  The amount to which the financial reports where incorrect exceeded $5,000.  Additionally, on December 10, 2015, I deleted or destroyed documents regarding the financial reports.  I also took possession of funds belonging to my employer, in excess of $5,000, with intent to permanently deprive.

Court Tells Johnson Charges May Be Further Reduced at Sentencing if Restitution Paid in Full

As part of her guilty plea hearing, the court informed Johnson that he charges may be further reduced at sentencing, if Johnson made a $15,000 restitution payment to the Chamber prior to the date of sentencing.  Sentencing was scheduled for September 20th.

Johnson Sentenced to 36-Months Probation and Ordered to Pay $15,000 in Restitution

On September 20th, Johnson came before Judge Gary Stott for sentencing.  Judge Stott began by explaining that a Rule 11 agreement was agreed to at the guilty plea hearing, and that, based on that agreement, no jail or fine are to be imposed.  Judge Stott said that, while the court is not generally bound to the terms of a Rule 11 agreement, the court bound itself to the Rule 11 agreement in this case at the guilty plea hearing.  Finally, before imposing the court’s sentence, Judge Stott informed the parties that a “one step reduction per the plea agreement is given on charges 2 and 3,” meaning those second-degree felonies were reduced (402 reduction) to third-degree felonies as part of the plea agreement.

Judge Stott then imposed the court’s sentence on Johnson.  Judge Stott sentenced Johnson to one to five years in prison on each of the three felony counts, but suspended any term of imprisonment.  In lieu of imprisonment, Judge Stott ordered Johnson to serve 36-months of probation, as well as ordered Johnson to pay $15,000 in restitution to the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce.  As part of her probation, Johnson “is to obey all laws, state, local and federal and is to have no further violations during the probation period. The court will accept minor traffic offenses.”  Furthermore, if Johnson is able to successfully complete her term of probation, the court said a “second step reduction is to be given on charge 2, theft, and charge three communications fraud,” thereby reducing those charges to Class A Misdemeanors.  However, if Johnson violates any of the terms of her probation, the aforementioned prison terms will be imposed.

Johnson’s Destruction of Evidence Benefited Her

An interesting side note to Johnson’s sentencing is that the $15,000 restitution order pales in comparison to the more than $200,000 Johnson stood accused of embezzling from her employer.  According to Deputy Utah County Attorney Lance Bastian, the $15,000 restitution amount was agreed to by the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce as part of a negotiated settlement.  Bastian said that because Johnson acted to destroy much of the evidence against her, she was given many more accommodations than prosecutors wanted to give her, including the drastically reduced restitution amount.

“Once she realized they were on to her,” Bastian said, “she came in after hours and shredded documents, destroyed electronic documents, deleted emails and destroyed most of the evidence we needed to go to trial.”

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Copyright 2016

The unauthorized practice of law: woman posing as lawyer sentenced to jail and banned from legal profession

lawyer2n-2-webIn late December 2014, a woman was arrested in Summit County on allegations that she had been impersonating a Utah attorney and handling cases in court, representing actual clients under another attorney’s name.  The woman, identified as Karla Carbo, then 29 and residing in South Jordan, was arrested and booked into the Summit County Jail on suspicion of felony fraud, forgery and identity theft.

Carbo Held Self Out as an Attorney, Using Real Attorney’s Bar Information

Investigators said that Carbo had held herself out as an attorney in several jurisdictions, including impersonating an attorney at least times in the six months before her arrest.  Carbo was arrested within a week negotiating felony counts down to misdemeanors on behalf of her client in Summit County.  In fact it was that exact plea deal that garnered the attention of the Utah Bar Association.  The Bar told police that Carbo had been using a legitimate attorney’s name and bar number to represent clients without a license.

Police said that Carbo had represented to the courts that her name was Karla Stirling Fierro, but that the bar number Carbo gave as her own actually belonged to Utah attorney Karla Stirling.  In an interview, Stirling said, “It’s been shocking to hear that there’s been somebody else whose doing this with my name and my bar number.  I mean, who would take it that far to full-on impersonate someone and use a legitimate bar number?”

Stirling Was Completely Unaware Carbo Was Posing as Her

Stirling said that she found out about Carbo’s impersonation of her when she was contacted by the Draper City Justice Court about a pending hearing.  Stirling told the court she had no idea what they were talking about, and that she did not even practice criminal law.  “I said, ‘I don’t know what this is. There must be some mistake.’ And they went back and checked and said, ‘Oh no, this is no mistake,'” Stirling said.

“I don’t do any criminal work. I’ve never done any criminal work or immigration or personal injury. I’ve done business contracts, real estate,” Stirling said.  “I have not done any litigation matters in Utah.  There shouldn’t be any court files with my name or my bar number in Utah whatsoever.”

Soon after the court contacted Stirling, the Summit County Attorney’s Office got a call from the Utah State Bar telling them “that Fierro was not an attorney.”

Utah AG’s Office Takes Over Prosecution

In April 2015, the Utah Attorney General’s Office took over the prosecution of Carbo’s case.  That meant that Summit County prosecutor’s agreed to dismiss the charges pending against Carbo there, while new charges would be filed by the State in 3rd District Court.  The State charged Carbo with 12 felony counts, including one count each of second-degree felony engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity and identity fraud, along with five counts of second-degree felony communications fraud.  The charges also include five counts of third-degree felony forgery, court records show.

Carbo Pleads Guilty to Felony Counts, Including UPUAA Count

In July 2015, Carbo accepted a plea deal from State prosecutors, which required her to plead guilty to second-degree felony counts of pattern of unlawful activity, identity fraud, communication fraud, and one third-degree felony count of forgery.  In exchange for Carbo’s pleas, prosecutors dismissed eight other counts.  As part of the plea deal, Carbo agreed to pay more than $7,000 in restitution – money she earned as legal fees for her misrepresented services.  As it related to sentencing, prosecutors told Judge Keith Kelly at the plea hearing that they would be asking the court to impose a 90-day jail sentence with probation to follow that.

Carbo Sentenced to 62 Days in Jail, Ordered to Pay Restitution, and Banished From Legal Profession

At the sentencing hearing in September 2015, Judge Kelly sentenced Carbo to 62 days in jail.  Judge Kelly suspended potential prison terms of up to 15 years and, per a plea agreement negotiated by attorneys, ordered her to serve 90 days in jail, but gave her credit for 28 days already served.  Judge Kelly also imposed 36 months of probation, which required Carbo to complete 75 hours of community service, as well as obtain treatment to address theft issues.  Carbo was also ordered to pay approximately $7,274 in restitution to five clients wo paid for her fraudulent legal services.  Finally, Judge Kelly ordered that Carbo not engage in any legal-related employment.

Carbo’s attorney said of the sentence, “She understands she has harmed these people. She understands she has harmed the legal system.”  “She’s a hardworking mother and she just wants to put this behind her,” her attorney added.

Carbo Victims Offered “Do-Over”

As it relates to the plea deal Carbo negotiated just prior to her arrest, Summit County attorney Matthew Bates said, “This is a very serious matter because we know of at least one person out there now who has pled guilty to a crime without having a competent attorney.”  Further, Bates said that the judge in that case had sent a notice to the defendant telling him what had happened and scheduled a new court date, at which time the defendant will be allowed to be appointed a real attorney as well as withdraw his guilty plea if he wants to, and that Bates’ office would not object to a “do-over.”

“Legally, he has pretty solid grounds to withdraw his plea if he wanted to because the plea was essentially uncounseled and an uncounseled plea is a violation of the Constitution,” Bates said.

While, Carbo’s criminal matter may have been resolved, the Utah Pattern of Unlawful Activity Act (“UPUAA”) allows persons harmed by a pattern of unlawful activity to file a civil suit against the wrongdoer.  That portion of the UPUAA allows a person injured through a pattern of unlawful activity to recover “twice the damages” he or she “sustains,” as well as “the costs of suit, including reasonable attorney fees” if they prevail.  A civil action under the UPUAA must be commenced “within three years after the conduct prohibited by Section 76-10-1603 terminates or the cause of action accrues, whichever is later.”

Contact Our UPUAA Team Today

To date it does not appear that any of Carbo’s victims have filed suit against her under the civil prong of the UPUAA, but they still have time.  If you or someone you know has been a victim of a pattern of unlawful activity, do not hesitate to call our UPUAA attorney team for a consultation.  Conversely, if you have been arrested and charged with a violation of the UPUAA, which is a second-degree felony, please contact our UPUAA attorneys for a consultation as well.  Our UPUAA attorneys can be reached by telephone at (801) 323-5000 or by email at

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Apple stock scheme lands Utah man in prison

wall-street-HPursuant to the Utah Pattern of Unlawful Activity Act (“UPUAA”), the state must prove that an individual engaged in a “pattern of unlawful activity.”  As defined by the statute, a “‘[p]attern of unlawful activity’ means engaging in conduct which constitutes the commission of at least three episodes of unlawful activity.”  The UPUAA lists approximately 64 violations of Utah law that constitute unlawful activity for purposes of the UPUAA.  A Violation of the Utah Uniform Securities Act is included within the offenses that constitute “unlawful activity” under the UPUAA.

In a case that has involved an investigation and lawsuit by the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), a federal prosecution for obstruction of justice and providing false information, and state charges for securities fraud and engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity, Third District Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills recently sentenced Roger S. Bliss to a minimum of four years in the Utah State Prison.  Mr. Bliss’ sentence follows his guilty plea to four counts of communications fraud and one count of engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity.  Judge Hruby-Mills said that Mr. Bliss’ four year sentence will run consecutively with his one-year prison term imposed from federal court as it relates to the charges of obstruction of justice and providing false information.

SEC Files Suit

In February 2015, the SEC sued Mr. Bliss in Utah federal court.  In its complaint, the SEC alleged Mr. Bliss solicited investors by offering them a membership in purported investment club.  Mr. Bliss communicated to potential investors that he could day trade (speculation in securities) Apple stock for annual returns of 100 to 300 percent and that he had not lost money on a day trade in the last six years, the SEC said.

In order to further entice investors, Mr. Bliss told them that he was trading more than $300 million in assets.  However, the SEC has said that Mr. Bliss’ brokerage account actually showed losses of at least $3 million over a three year period, with an ending balance of only $32,000.

According to court papers filed by the SEC, Mr. Bliss allegedly structured the scheme as an investment club following a meeting with attorneys, whereby the attorneys told him that structuring the scheme as an investment club would keep him from having to register as an investment adviser or a broker-dealer.

SEC Obtains TRO and Asset Freeze

On the same day the SEC lawsuit was filed, a Utah federal court also entered a temporary restraining order and asset freeze against Mr. Bliss.  In July 2015, the SEC filed a motion for an order to show cause, claiming that Mr. Bliss had violated the court’s asset freeze when he failed to disclose ownership of a catamaran and had the boat removed from his property five days after the asset freeze was entered.  In response to the SEC’s motion, Mr. Bliss said in a sworn declaration that his brother-in-law, Kevin Fortney, who had not been named in the SEC’s lawsuit, owned the boat but stored it at his house in Bear Lake during the off-season.

Mr. Bliss Held in Contempt

Following the statements in Mr. Bliss’ sworn declaration, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby held Mr. Bliss in civil contempt.  Judge Shelby stayed any sanctions against Mr. Bliss, and, instead, referred the matter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah for a consideration of whether criminal charges should be brought against Mr. Shelby for criminal contempt.

Mr. Bliss and Mr. Fortney Indicted in Utah Federal Court

In August 2015, Mr. Bliss and Mr. Fortney were indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly lying about the ownership of the catamaran during the SEC’s investigation.  Mr. Bliss ultimately pled guilty to the federal charges, and was sentenced to a one-year prison term.

As previously noted, State charges were also filed against Mr. Bliss in connection with his alleged Apple investment scheme, including four counts of securities fraud and one count of engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity.  The State was able to include a charge for engaging in a pattern of unlawful because they had alleged four “episodes” of securities fraud attributable to Mr. Bliss.  A charge under the UPUAA is a second degree felony, but also carries the potential penalties of cost of suit, restitution, disgorgement, or other reasonable restrictions that may be placed on the future activities or investments of the individual, including ordering the dissolution or reorganization of any enterprise as defined by the UPUAA.

Mr. Bliss Ordered to Pay Restitution in Addition to Prison Time

Mr. Bliss ultimately pled guilty to the State charges, which led to the court imposing a four-year sentence against him.  In addition to sentencing Mr. Bliss to prison, the court also ordered him to pay approximately $21 million in restitution to the victims of his securities scheme.