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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Illinois

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, September 9, 2019

Federal inmate Gets 18 More Years for Bogus Involuntary Bankruptcy Petitions Filed Against Warden, Prison Officer

The prison sentence for one inmate at the U.S. Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, just got a lot 
longer. Kurt F. Johnson, 56, who was due to be released in 2028, was sentenced earlier today to 
serve an additional 216 months behind bars for filing fictitious, involuntary bankruptcy petitions 
against federal prison officials. Johnson was convicted of the charges after a three-day jury trial 
in Benton, Illinois, last year.

The evidence at trial established that, in January 2018, with the assistance of persons outside the 
prison, Johnson succeeded in filing false involuntary bankruptcy petitions against the prison 
warden and an officer at the prison. The bogus petitions alleged that each victim was indebted to 
Johnson in the amount of $20 billion, owing to a judgment Johnson claimed to have obtained from the 
International Court of Justice (also known as the World Court). As part of the scheme, Johnson 
purportedly canceled $1 billion of the supposed debt and then filed forms with the Internal Revenue 
Service showing the canceled debt as unreported income for his victims.

The mere filing of the fictitious claims resulted in both victims receiving solicitation letters 
from credit counseling services and loan companies based upon their supposed bankruptcy. Once the 
fraud was discovered, the United States quickly moved to seal the proceedings to prevent further 
damage to the victims’ reputations.

At trial, the United States presented evidence that Johnson has a history and pattern of harassing 
judges, court personnel, and Bureau of Prisons employees through the filing of fictitious claims. 
Johnson eschewed appointed counsel and represented himself at the trial, testifying in his own 
defense that he genuinely believed the World Court had awarded him a default judgment for
$20 billion on account of his placement in the prison’s Communications Management Unit. The jury 
deliberated for approximately 40 minutes before returning guilty verdicts on all four counts.

“Kurt Johnson broke the law trying to harm those who enforce it,” U.S. Attorney   Steven
D. Weinhoeft said. “His sentence sends an unmistakable message to all criminals who would lash out 
against the men and women who work within the justice system: you will be prosecuted to the fullest 
extent of the law.”
Johnson’s sentence also includes a three-year term of supervised release.

Johnson won’t begin serving his 18-year sentence until he finishes serving the last decade of a 
300-month sentence he previously received for an unrelated fraud conviction in the Northern 
District of California. His underlying crime involved a nationwide debt elimination scheme that 
raked in over $6 million.

“I am grateful to U.S. Attorney Weinhoeft and our law enforcement partners who serve on the 
Southern District of Illinois Bankruptcy Fraud Working Group for their strong commitment to 
combating fraud and abuse in bankruptcy cases, as evidenced by this prosecution,” stated Nancy J. 
Gargula, U.S. Trustee for Southern and Central Illinois and Indiana (Region 10). The U.S. Trustee 
Program is the component of the Justice Department that protects the integrity of the bankruptcy 
system by overseeing case administration and litigating to enforce the bankruptcy laws. Region 10 
is headquartered in Indianapolis, with additional offices in South Bend, Indiana, and Peoria, 
Illinois.

The case was investigated by the FBI, with substantial assistance from the Federal Bureau of 
Prisons. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael J. Quinley and William E. Coonan prosecuted the
case.
 

Updated September 9, 2019