A west-metro man was convicted of defrauding investors out of $2.1 million and using the money to buy vintage cars and an island on a Wright County lake. He had told them he was building housing for North Dakota oil workers.
After about two hours of deliberation, Ronald D. Johnson, 51, was found guilty by jurors in federal court in St. Paul of nine counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering.
Johnson, of Corcoran, “saw the North Dakota oil boom as an opportunity to steal from people looking to invest in the Bakken,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph H. Thompson. “Under the guise of a fake company, Johnson defrauded investors, including a former girlfriend and his own church pastor.”
Richard Thornton, the FBI’s special agent in charge in Minneapolis, said that Johnson “stole millions to support his expensive hobbies and line his pockets.”
Messages were left Tuesday with Johnson’s attorney seeking reaction to the verdicts. According to the prosecution:
The scheme stretched from 2012 to March 2016, during which Johnson approached potential investors about his idea to create and manage housing for oil workers in the Bakken in North Dakota and Montana.
His Indoor RV Parks would allow workers to avoid living in the typical barracks-style housing in favor of parking their recreational vehicles in a park and sharing amenities such as laundry facilities and vending machines.
Johnson received $2.1 million from four investors and used more than $1.8 million of it to finance his cattle farm, take vacations, buy several vintage Chevrolets and purchase an entire 17-acre island on Mink Lake in Maple Lake.
When last for sale, the island was listed for $109,000. The land was described in the listing as heavily wooded and included a 36- by 24-foot pavilion. Court records do not reveal the fate of the island, but cases such as these routinely require restitution to the victims.