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Press Release

San Fernando Valley Man Who Served Nearly 8 Years for Investment Scam Sentenced to Another 6 Months for Violating Terms of Release

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of California

          LOS ANGELES – A convicted con man who defrauded a North Carolina man out of more than $8.7 million and was sentenced to nine years in federal prison has been sentenced to another six months in prison for violating the terms of his supervised release by traveling to Africa without permission in relation to another possible fraud scheme.

          Thomas Mitchell Johnson, 62, was sentenced Monday afternoon to six months in federal prison, which will be followed by two years of supervised release. Johnson lives in Sherman Oaks, and he resided in Burbank prior to being convicted and sentenced in 2008.

          The sentencing follows Johnson’s admission late last year that he violated the terms of his supervised released – a three-year period of court supervision that followed his prison term – by traveling to the Ivory Coast without permission from the court or his probation officer.

          On July 25, 2015 – only 10 days after being released from federal prison in the fraud case – Johnson sought a court order to allow him to travel to the Ivory Coast. Johnson claimed he had an opportunity to work as a consultant on a cashew and almond processing plant with the government of the Ivory Coast, and that the government of the West African nation had agreed to pay his travel and living expenses. This request was denied by the court.

          In April and July of 2016, Johnson sought permission to travel to New York City for work, requests that were granted. On July 20, 2016, Johnson was stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at Los Angeles International Airport after arriving on a flight from Paris as part of trip that originated in the Ivory Coast. A review of his passport revealed that Johnson had traveled to the Ivory Coast in both April and July of 2016. Further investigation revealed that Johnson had made a video in New York City in May 2016 in which he discusses plans for his company to engage in cashew and cocoa processing, how “we are already committed on paper” to investing “$50 million every six months for two and one-half years,” and that the project would create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the Ivory Coast.

          The Probation Office filed a petition with the court concerning Johnson’s unauthorized travel, allegations that Johnson admitted in December.

          “This defendant lied to his probation officer and lied to customs officials at LAX, and his violations are even more egregious because it appears that he was traveling in order to engage in another scheme to defraud,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Despite a lengthy prison sentence, this defendant took steps almost immediately upon release to flout the court’s authority and the law. The public should be aware of persistent recidivists who simply cannot stop committing their crimes.”

          Johnson was on supervised released after serving a prison sentence resulting from a fraud scheme in which he defrauded a North Carolina man out of millions of dollars in a scheme that purportedly involved high-yield bonds. Johnson was sentenced after being found guilty at trial of six counts of interstate transportation of stolen property and five counts of money laundering. Through his company, Zurich Capital Holdings, Inc., Johnson offered an investment opportunity to the victim-investor, who transferred $10 million to an account Johnson controlled. Johnson spent the majority of the victim’s money on extravagant personal expenses for himself and his girlfriend including the purchase of two luxury homes in Burbank and high-end automobiles, including two Bentleys, two Mercedes Benz and a Land Rover.

          Johnson was sentenced on Monday for the supervised release violation by United States District Judge R. Gary Klausner.

          The case Johnson was investigated by the FBI, and the violation of supervised release was investigated by the United States Probation Office. Assistant United States Attorney Ruth C. Pinkel of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section prosecuted the case.

Updated February 1, 2017

Press Release Number: 17-024