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8:52 PM Sun, Oct. 21st

Former contractor sentenced to prison

Former Kingman contractor Richard James Johns was sentenced Wednesday in Mohave County Superior Court to less than three years in prison.

Johns recently pleaded guilty to two counts of forgery.

He was originally charged with seven felony counts of forgery and one count of theft.

La Paz County Superior Court Judge Michael Burke sentenced Johns to concurrent terms of three years and nine months for each count of forgery.

Johns was credited with already serving 18 months in jail on the fraud charges.

He also was ordered to pay $37,000 restitution.

In seeking probation for his client, attorney Billy Sipe Jr.

argued that Mohave County was partially to blame for not checking on Johns' background even though he was on felony probation in California for theft of a rental car.

Sipe also called Johns a scapegoat for the county and said two construction projects he was involved in might have been completed.

Johns was hired in December 1996 to build a $2.6 million juvenile detention facility in


A month later, a subcontractor began questioning Johns' policies, which led to his indictment in February 1997, records show.

He also was charged with fraudulently obtaining contracts to build a $500,000 fire station for the Hualapai Valley Fire Department, court records show.

Fraudulent performance bonds were in the name Atlantic and Pacific Insurance Co.

In arguing for probation, Sipe cited Johns' age, 68, the non-violent nature of the crime, that Johns has spent four of the last six years in prison and that Johns' co-defendant received only probation.

Mohave Chief Deputy County Attorney Jace Zack, in asking for the maximum six-year prison term, called the argument that the county was at fault absurd.

Zack said that Johns is good at lying, adding he lied about being a qualified contractor and architect.

Zack also said the county did some checking on the background.

"Yeah, Mohave County was too trusting," Zack said.

"But that is so audacious to take that position.

I'm a scapegoat because you didn't catch me? That's a scam."

Zack also argued that Johns' co-defendant, Lawrence Sellers, who was sentenced in 1998 to three years probation, did not have a prior felony conviction.

Burke ruled out probation, citing aggravating factors that Johns had a felony record and had been charged with submitting fraudulent performance bonds to obtain two construction projects in New Mexico.

Johns recently was released from a New Mexico jail after serving a two-year prison term there.

Johns faced felony charges in Valencia County, N.M., for racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, four counts of forgery, conspiracy to commit fraud and fraud.

Johns also served time in a California prison in 2000 for violating probation on a forgery charge in that state.