It’s been six years since former Virgin Valley Water District Chief Hydrologist Michael “Boomer” Johnson was charged with 25 counts of criminal conduct stemming from a sale of water rights in 2008 involving local wealthy businessman John Lonetti.
After nine previous attempts by the Clark County District Attorney’s office to bring the case to trial, it was supposed to begin Monday, April 18. However, District Court records show that Judge Richard F. Scotti once again postponed the trial on a set of legal motions filed Monday and Tuesday, April 11 and 12 by the defendants’ attorneys.
The charges against Johnson and his alleged co-conspirator Robert Coache, former Deputy State Engineer, State of Nevada Division of Water Resources include extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion by a public officer, receiving a bribe by a public officer, conspiracy to commit receiving a bribe by a public officer, misconduct of a public officer, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Johnson, Coache, Lonetti and former VVWD General Manager Michael Winters, allegedly arranged for water purchases and trades in 2008 with Southern Nevada Water Authority in which the Virgin Valley Water District came out $3,8885,000 on the short end.
The complaint specifies that Johnson and Coache received $1,327,000 from Lonetti for their alleged actions in the 2008 deal.
Lonetti has not been charged in the criminal case. Criminal charges against Winters were dropped in 2014.
Deputy District Attorney Mark DiGiacomo, as the lead prosecutor in the criminal case, told the Mesquite Local News on Tuesday, April 12 that the jury trial has been rescheduled for Sept. 19 in Judge Scotti’s court. “Other than that, I have no comment,” DiGiacomo said.
After criminal charges were filed against Johnson and Coache in May 2011, the Water District filed civil charges against the four men for not only the 2008 water transaction but another one in 2005 in which the district allegedly lost approximately $8 million worth of water rights.
The civil case was settled in 2014 with Lonetti returning some of the water shares and money to the Water District.