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Trial Of St. George Businessman Starts

A St. George businessman who was a key figure in an influence-peddling scandal that ensured two former attorneys general is on trial for fraud.

Prosecutors said during opening arguments Monday that Jeremy Johnson lied to banks to create dozens of shell companies so his online company could keep making millions in questionable credit card charges.

A lawyer for Johnson's bookkeeper contends no one lied to banks or broke any laws.

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Federal investigators say Johnson's company lured consumers into memberships for bogus government grants, then kept charging their credit cards.

Before the case was filed, Johnson was a well-known Utah philanthropist who used his personal aircraft to aid search-and-rescue operations.

Johnson's allegations about back-channel payments helped touch off a scandal that led to charges against former Utah attorneys general John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff. They deny wrongdoing.