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Con man sentenced in Montana

With Matthew Cody McClintock and Judy Johnson in jail in Montana, Pagosa Country business owners can rest assured that the duo’s con attempts are finished.

On Oct. 7, McClintock pleaded guilty to deceptive practices-common scheme, a felony in Montana, said Undersheriff Roger Thompson of Madison County, Mont.

McClintock, also known as Michael Willis, was arrested in Pagosa Springs on criminal impersonation charges in November 2009 and was being held in the Archuleta County Detention Center in January when Pagosa Springs Police Department Det. Scott Maxwell received a call from Thompson informing him of an outstanding arrest warrant for the felony.

Judy Johnson, McClintock’s alleged accomplice and girlfriend, was arrested on Sept. 29, also on an arrest warrant out of Montana on the same charge — issued earlier in September.

Johnson has not been convicted.

Thompson said the common scheme, “a pattern or string of crimes in the same category,” escalated the charge to felony status.

A presentence investigation is being completed by the Montana Department of Corrections in order to give the judge an idea of McClintock’s past prior to sentencing, Thompson said.

“We greatly appreciate the Pagosa Springs Police Department and their help,” Thompson said, adding that Maxwell was key in arresting McClintock and Johnson.

“Hopefully, we have been able to put a stop to their fraudulent behaving that was occurring in multiple states and occurring in Pagosa Springs while we were working on our investigation,” Thompson said.

The two, mainly McClintock, obtained money and other items from a number of businesses in several states under the guises of creating promotional videos for areas, starting a ranch for children in the Chama, N.M., area, helping other causes involving children, or raising money for charities such as breast cancer research.

Reports involving fraud by McClintock began surfacing in Montana in late 2007 and almost a year later, McClintock and Johnson moved their operations to Madison County, where authorities were alerted when McClintock failed to pay rent and began other scams.

In Madison County, Thompson said McClintock defrauded over 200 businesses to the tune of $56,000.

Additionally, Thompson estimated McClintock stole $24,000 by not paying billing accounts (phone, rent, etc.); $80,000 in vehicle use; $10,000 in bad checks; and $7,400 lost by banks when accounts were closed with negative balances.

In late spring of 2009, McClintock and Johnson left Montana and headed for Chama, N.M., where they reportedly defrauded more than 30 businesses before heading to Pagosa Springs.

In Pagosa Springs and surrounding communities, the fraud schemes reportedly hit about 30 more businesses before McClintock was arrested.

According to PSPD investigation documents, it is believed that fraud perpetrated by the duo amounted to as much as $4,000 in La Plata County, $50 in Mineral County, $98 in Hinsdale County, and $2,801 in Archuleta County.

McClintock and Johnson’s fraud involved a ranch for children outside Chama, N.M., a travel video log for television, breast cancer awareness campaigns and video advertisements for area businesses.

Other reports have surfaced involving hundreds of thousands of dollars of fraud in other states prior to McClintock’s move to Montana.

A disabled woman in Oklahoma who was conned out of $150,000 received a settlement for $350,000 against McClintock.

No money has been recovered in the other states, though a video camera and several computers stolen from a victim in Belgrade, Mont. were recovered in Pagosa Springs.

In his fraud schemes, McClintock had Johnson and other victims sign accounts and business registrations for him, with his name never connected directly to them, though he used them to commit the frauds, Thompson said.

McClintock’s victims would cease helping him after finding out about the fraud, but Johnson did not, thus opening her to criminal charges, Thompson said.

“What’s interesting to me is all the different facets of it,” Thompson said, citing McClintock’s claim to be other people (which helped the case reach criminal status in Montana), multitiered frauds playing to emotions, hiring employees, and creating business agreements that would be dealt with in civil versus criminal courts.

While charged in Montana, McClintock and Johnson will not face similar charges in Archuleta County, said Deputy District Attorney Alex Lowe.

“There appears to be no reasonable likelihood of conviction,” Lowe said, adding that the actions “appeared easily defensible.”

Lowe said that because McClintock was arrested before he was able to comply with agreements made with area businesses, it would be hard to show intent not to comply.