Jury convicts Minnesota man in $2M Bakken RV park fraud

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, June 20, 2017

ST. PAUL (AP) — A federal jury has convicted a Minnesota man prosecutors said stole $2 million from investors hoping to make money off North Dakota’s oil boom and using the money instead to buy vintage cars and an island.

Jurors found Ronald David Johnson, 51, of Corcoran guilty on all counts of wire fraud and money laundering, the U.S. attorney’s office said Tuesday.

In a news release, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Thompson said Johnson “saw the North Dakota oil boom as an opportunity to steal from people looking to invest in the Bakken.” Among the defrauded investors were Johnson’s ex-girlfriend and his church pastor, Thompson said.

Prosecutors said Johnson came up with an investment idea to house oil workers in the Bakken in North Dakota and Montana. The idea would allow oil workers to park their recreational vehicles in warehouses and share laundry and vending machines.

Johnson was accused of fraudulently soliciting $2.1 million from four investors. Instead of using the money for RV parks, Johnson used the money to fund his 51-acre cattle farm, take vacations, buy vintage Chevrolets and purchase real estate, including a 17-acre island on Mink Lake in Maple Lake. The investment proposal has not built any RV parks or acquired any property in North Dakota or Montana, and its bank account is empty, the government said.

Special Agent in Charge of the Minneapolis FBI Division Richard Thornton called Johnson “a classic con man who lured investors with empty promises of financial gain and false assurances to provide housing to hard-working oil workers. In reality, Mr. Johnson stole millions to support his expensive hobbies and line his pockets.”

Johnson’s defense attorney, Aaron Morrison, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.0