Scott Norris Johnson is a quadriplegic who used to work for the IRS and now practices law suing local businesses for failing to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As the lawyer filing these lawsuits, Johnson is entitled to at least a portion of the settlement money he receives from these lawsuits, but he is required to report that money on his income taxes. According to a recent lawsuit, Johnson knowingly failed to report that income on his taxes, thereby defrauding the U.S. government of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Johnson pleaded guilty to the charge of tax evasion and agreed to pay $250,000 in restitution and spend 18 months of home detention. The judge presiding over the case, John Mendez, insisted that Johnson be made to pay a fine in addition to the $250,000 in restitution and home detention. That was not part of the plea agreement, but Johnson agreed to pay the $50,000 fine Mendez wanted him to pay.
Mendez pointed out that the money is a drop in the bucket for Johnson, who has assets of $1.3 million and a monthly income of $81,000, thanks to all the ADA lawsuits he’s filing. Mendez was also concerned by Johnson’s lack of remorse for his actions, and pointed out that, were it not for his disability, he’d be serving up to three years in prison.
Johnson is also prohibited from looking for violations of the ADA or filing any ADA lawsuits while he is in home detention. His license to practice law has been suspended, and he has been ordered not to ask for it to be renewed until after all his 18 months of home detention have been served. Judge Mendez also took issue with the fact that Johnson has not voluntarily resigned from the Bar.
Malcolm Segal, the attorney representing Johnson in the case, argued that the restitution plus the fine would make a big dent in Johnson’s assets. Add to that his monthly medical expenses of around $26,000 and the fact that he’s not allowed to practice law for the next 18 months, and his savings could quickly disappear.
Johnson’s attorney also pointed out that the rules for claiming settlement amounts on your taxes are complicated. Nevertheless, Johnson’s history as an IRS worker makes it difficult for him to claim he didn’t fully understand the rules. In fact, Johnson has not tried to claim he didn’t know what he was doing.
Instead, he allegedly used his legal knowledge to his advantage to claim the funds he got from ADA settlements as personal physical injury payments, rather than income from his law practice.
Johnson is estimated to have filed more than 6,250 lawsuits in the past 20 years. Whether he’s a predator or a champion of justice depends on your point of view. Small business owners claim Johnson would drive by small businesses he had no intention of patronizing just so he could look for violations and file a lawsuit. Many of them went out of business as a result of his lawsuits.
But disability advocates insist Johnson is just trying to make the world more accessible for people like him who rely on wheelchairs to get around.
Litigating on behalf of businesses and individuals who have been the victims of fraud or who have been maligned, abused, or treated unfairly or unjustly is what we stand for at Lubin Austermuehle. We are vehemently against deception because our firm was founded on honesty, integrity and trust more than 30 years ago. If you’ve been wronged, why not let us stand with you and work toward justice and just compensation? Our fraud flag flies high from Naperville and Oak Park to the North Shore and beyond.
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