Johnson would lie to victims about his professional background, his contacts with celebrities, and his personal net worth, in order to induce them to invest in the scheme.
He would claim to be involved in financing for major events, including a party in Washington for the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, a world tour by the singer Rihanna, and even the 2015 fight between boxing champs Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
Johnson was the ultimate conman that understood his victims and how to “sell” them on credible events. He would go to great lengths to make investors believe in his wealth and success. According to court filings, Johnson would arrive at business meetings in expensive custom suits, stepping out of a Rolls Royce driven by a personal chauffeur.
While this seems far-fetched and clearly not legitimate, Johnson would have his “assistant” send investors promissory notes that guaranteed their return on investments. This small token of promise was enough to swindle investors for a total of $1 million. Even if a victim could only invest a few thousand dollars, Johnson would take it.
However, according to federal authorities, there was never an assistant and the promise of high returns (up to 40%) was a complete lie.
Like most con artists we’ve covered in previous blogs, this investor money went directly into Johnson’s pockets and fueled his lavish lifestyle. He purchased luxury vehicles, designer clothes, parties at nightclubs, tickets for sporting events, and gambling at casinos.
“For over ten years, the defendant made his living swindling people out of money – lots of people and lots of money,” prosecutors wrote in court papers arguing for the stiffest sentence possible. “He was a professional con-man who used his good-natured and seemingly relaxed personality to endear himself to unsuspecting people and gained their confidence through a mix of friendly banter and schoolyard braggadocio.”
As most of these cases go, the victims are always the ones that are hurt the most. Prosecutors say that many of the investors have lost thousands of dollars, life savings, had their credit ruined, or were forced into foreclosure or bankruptcy as a result of his schemes.
How to Avoid Real Estate Scams
Reading about scammers who prey on unaware victims can be disheartening and discouraging, but take it as a lesson to be wary as you conduct business in the real estate world.
Do your research on common real estate scams, and be cautious as you work to protect yourself and your clients. As the saying goes, if it seems too good to be true, chances are it is.
The CE Shop readers: If you want to read more about con artists and fraudsters, check out these other blogs from The CE Shop: