Tucson, Arizona - Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced Phillip Johnson, a Tucson man, was sentenced to 15.75 years in prison for orchestrating a scheme to defraud the Pima County Superior Court to obtain firearms as a prohibited possessor. Earlier this year, a Pima County jury convicted Johnson of Fraudulent Schemes and Artifices, Illegally Conducting a Criminal Enterprise, and Conspiracy.
Johnson has multiple felony convictions dating back to 1997, and as a result, he is a prohibited possessor. In early 2017, Johnson recruited his friend Emanuel Simpson to collect 32 guns held in Tucson Police custody that had been confiscated in a previous criminal court case. He bought Simpson a plane ticket to fly to Arizona and helped Simpson file an affidavit with the Pima County Superior Court falsely claiming ownership of the firearms. Simpson later picked up the guns from the Tucson Police Department in a van provided by Johnson and was driving the guns around Tucson with Johnson following. The Tucson Police Department discovered the scheme and seized the firearms before Johnson took back the van.
In August of 2019, Johnson fled from the courthouse before the jury returned the verdicts against him, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Johnson was arrested in Riverside, California on January 3, 2020. He was sentenced to concurrent prison terms of 15.75 years for Fraudulent Schemes and Artifices, 11.25 years for Illegally Controlling a Prison Enterprise, and 15.75 years for Conspiracy.
In November 2019, Simpson was sentenced to two years of probation.
Assistant Attorneys General Jordan Emerson and Lindsay St. John prosecuted this case. The Tucson Police Department investigated the case.