More than three
years after multiple felony charges were filed against former Duneland
realtor Don Johnson, a jury trial has been scheduled.
That trial is set
to begin on Nov. 7, before Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford.
originally charged on March 14, 2014, with seven counts of selling
unregistered securities; seven of selling securities without himself being
registered to do so; and three of securities fraud.
On March 27, 2014,
two additional felony counts were filed against Johnson: one of forgery, the
other of theft.
One reason for the
delay in the matter of Don Johnson: five months were lost last year to
Johnson’s motion to dismiss eight of the charges against him on the ground
that the statute of limitations had expired. Johnson’s attorneys filed that
motion in July 2016 and Bradford denied it in August. The defense responded
by seeking Bradford’s approval to file an interlocutory appeal before the
Indiana Court of Appeals. That motion Bradford duly granted in October. Two
months later, however, in December, the appellate denied Johnson’s appeal
Yet the case
history is full of previous postponements. On eight separate occasions--“By
Request,” according to court records--Bradford re-scheduled status
conferences, sometimes by a matter of months. On four occasions he
re-scheduled pre-trial conferences, also by request. And on seven occasions
he ordered a continuance.
In addition to the
14 counts of securities and broker-dealer registration violations, Johnson
is also charged with three counts of securities fraud, alleging that he
employed a scheme to defraud, made an untrue statement of material fact, or
otherwise engaged in deceitful business practices.
Johnson is also
accused of forging a dead woman’s name on an insurance check and then
stealing the check.
Among other things,
the probable cause affidavit filed by the Chesterton Police Department
alleges that one of Johnson’s clients was a woman who belonged to Johnson’s
church, to whom he promised a 30-percent return on a $60,000 investment--in
a real estate project--from the woman’s National Steel retirement account.
Five years after signing the promissory note, Johnson told the woman that a
downturn in the economy had halted work on the project, yet the woman kept
receiving statements from a trust company showing a balance of $59,000 or
more and didn’t realize that she’d lost all of her money until she talked to
her son about the situation, the affidavit states.
Johnson was for
years a familiar face in the Duneland real estate market. Then, in November
2010, the Indiana Attorney General’s Office brought a 33-count
administrative complaint against him alleging numerous improprieties. In
June 2012, Johnson and the Indiana Real Estate Commission (IREC) reached a
negotiated settlement under which the IREC suspended his broker’s license
for three years and ordered him to pay $15,000 in consumer restitution.
But when Johnson
failed to pay the first $5,000 installment of that restitution, the IREC
revoked his license permanently.
The IREC previously
concluded the following about Johnson’s business practices:
* That he “engaged
in material deception” by providing advice on bankruptcy filings without a
license to practice law.
* That he had
“become unfit to practice due to failure to keep abreast of current theory”
as well as to “professional incompetence.”
* That Johnson
failed to notify a client whose house he said he would purchase that the
property was subsequently sold at a sheriff’s sale, but he continued to
collect rental payments totaling $1,800 from the tenants of the property
while at the same time failing to pay the mortgage on the property.
The Jury Trial
Attorney Brian Gensel told the Chesterton Tribune last week that an
attorney from the Securities Division of the Indiana Secretary of State’s
Office will be assisting the prosecution at Johnson’s trial.