BENTON — A federal inmate at the U.S. Penitentiary in Marion was found guilty Thursday of filing fictitious involuntary bankruptcy petitions against prison officials, including the warden.
According to a news release from U.S. Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft, Kurt F. Johnson, a 55-year-old inmate serving a sentence in the Communications Management Unit at the federal penitentiary on an unrelated fraud conviction, was convicted by a jury in Benton after a three-day trial. He was indicted in July on four federal charges in the scheme. The jury deliberated 40 minutes before delivering a guilty verdict on all four counts.
The release states that evidence during trial showed that on Jan. 8, with assistance from someone outside the prison, Johnson filed false involuntary bankruptcy petitions against the prison warden and another officer. The fake petitions claimed that each were indebted $20 billion to Johnson, which Johnson claimed stemmed from a judgment from the International Court of Justice. As part of the scheme, according to the release, Johnson canceled $1 billion of the supposed debt and filed forms with the IRS showing the canceled debt as unreported income for his victims.
Both victims received solicitation letters from credit counseling services and loan companies. The U.S. sealed the proceedings to "prevent further damage to the victims' reputations," according to the release.
The U.S. attorney's news release says the U.S. presented evidence at trial that Johnson has a history of harassing judges, court personnel and prison employees through similar fictitious claims. Johnson represented himself in the trial and said he genuinely believed the World Court had awarded him a default judgment for $20 billion since he was placed in the CMU at the Marion penitentiary.
Johnson is set to be sentenced Jan. 3, 2019. He could get as many as 20 additional years, which he may serve consecutively to the time he is already serving.