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Jury convicts federal inmate of trying to scam prison officials out of $20 billion

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An inmate at the federal prison in Marion County was convicted on Thursday for attempting to swindle the prison warden and a prison officer for $20 billion each.

The jury trial for Kurt F. Johnson, 55, lasted three days, a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Southern Illinois said. The jury found him guilty on four counts of fraud for filing bogus involuntary bankruptcy petitions against the warden and officer, claiming they were both indebted to him by $20 billion.

Johnson was already serving a 25-year sentence from California for fraud stemming from nationwide debt elimination scheme that raked in over $6 million. On Jan. 8, with the help of a person outside the prison, he succeeded in filing the petitions, saying they were owed to a judgment he had obtained from the International Court of Justice.

As part of the scheme, Johnson canceled $1 billion of the supposed debt and filed forms with the Internal Revenue Service showing the canceled debt as unreported income from the warden and officer. According to the press release, because Johnson filed the fictitious claims, the men received solicitation letters from credit counseling services and loan companies.

The release said that at the trial, U.S. attorneys presented evidence to the jury that Johnson had a history of harassing judges, court personnel and prison employees through a history of fictitious claims. Johnson represented himself at the trial and said that he genuinely believed the International Court of Justice had awarded him a default judgment due to his placement in the federal prison.

Johnson now faces as much as 20 additional years in prison, the release said. His sentencing is set for Jan. 3, 2019, at the U.S. District Court of Southern Illinois in Benton.

Hana Muslic: 618-239-2626, @h_muslic
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