Federal Jury Convicts Washington, D.C.-Area Man of Defrauding Montana Charity
BUTTE, MT—Following a two-day federal trial in Montana, a jury convicted Donald “Ski” Johnson, 48, of Silver Spring, Maryland, of wire fraud. Johnson defrauded Big Brothers Big Sisters of Gallatin County, Montana, by misrepresenting himself as a Grammy-nominated artist soliciting funds for a children’s cancer foundation. In reality, Johnson was never nominated for a Grammy and used money in the foundation’s account for his personal expenses. Chief U.S. District Court Judge Dana L. Christensen presided over the trial. Sentencing is set for November 12, 2015.
At trial, Assistant United States Attorney Chad C. Spraker presented evidence that in May 2012, Johnson contacted a large Montana resort using the alias Kevin Wright. The resort was partnering with Big Brother Big Sisters to put on a charity celebrity golf tournament. “Wright” claimed he was a Sony Records representative and an agent of Grammy-nominated saxophonist Ski Johnson. He also claimed that Johnson ran a charity known as the Jazz for Life Foundation. “Wright” stated that Johnson would donate two Grammy tickets to Big Brothers Big Sisters with one half of the proceeds going to Big Brothers Big Sisters and the other half going to Jazz for Life. Grammy tickets may not be transferred or resold, and Grammy tickets provide that tickets obtained in contravention of their terms will not be honored, and their holders shall be deemed trespassers. Big Brothers Big Sisters paid for Johnson and his manager’s travel expenses, lodging, food, and green fees. Big Brothers Big Sisters held the tournament in July 2012 and auctioned the tickets for a winning bid of $6,000. Big Brothers Big Sisters stopped the transaction after learning of Johnson’s true identity.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Chad C. Spraker prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service.