OKLAHOMA CITY – Small business owners, like Crystal Starbuck, say Russ Johnson sold them fake advertising, then disappeared with their cash.
“He told me he was over all the Gold’s Gyms,” Starbuck said. “He put all the advertisements on the TV in there.”
The contract was signed back in May.
Johnson cashed Crystal’s check, but hasn’t been seen or heard from since.
“The number he left me was disconnected,” she said. “There’s no physical address.”
Johnson lives in Oklahoma City, but Thursday we tracked him down in Canadian County, where he was in court answering to a bogus check charge.
We asked him about Crystal Starbuck.
“I have no idea who that is,” Johnson says.
NewsChannel 4’s Scott Hines says, “She paid you $550 down?”
Johnson says, “I don’t remember her. I don’t.”
Scott Hines says, “You don’t remember Crystal Starbuck?”
Russ Johnson says, “No I don’t.”
Scott Hines, “Says you cashed her check.”
“Partner, I’ve got to get in court,” Johnson says.
Hines explains, “Well you cashed her check.”
Johnson says, “I’ve got to get in court.”
“We have your signature on the cancelled check,” Scott Hines tells him.
“Okay,” Johnson replies.
Scott Hines says, “You don’t ever remember meeting Crystal Starbuck?”
“No I don’t,” Johnson replies.
Here’s where things get sketchy.
Johnson used to work for a company called Zoom Media, out of Pennsylvania.
Zoom Media sells advertising for Gold’s Gym. So yes, at one time, Russ Johnson was involved with legitimate business deals involving Gold’s Gym.
But then Zoom Media terminated Johnson.
That’s when Russ Johnson started an advertising company called Zoom Advertising.
“I thought it was a good name,” Johnson said.
Scott Hines’ photographer, Mark Dillard, asks Johnson, “Do you not see that that’s a little conflicted.
Johnson replies, “I could see where you would think that.”
Zoom Media confirms Johnson was fired back in May for embezzling money from the company.
“That is not true, not true whatsoever,” Johnson said.
“Well, this is your chance to set the record straight,” Scott Hines says.
“What I need to do is find my attorney and a get into court,” Johnson replies.
Again, we asked Johnson why he keeps avoiding customers.
“You disconnected your phone number,” Scott Hines presses.
Johnson says, “No I did not.”
Hines asks, “What’s your number?
“757-7687,” Johnson replies.
“Where’s that number from?,” Hines asked him.
Johnson says, “That is an old number.”
“Exactly, Scott Hines replies.
Scott show him Crystal’s contract.
“That’s the number that’s on the contract you gave Crystal,” Hines shows him.
Johnson says, “I gave Crystal my business card and said this is the best number to get me on.”
Russ Johnson does know Crystal Starbuck, after all.
Johnson says, “And if she hasn’t gotten what she paid for, then I’m more than happy to get her money back.”
Scott Hines says, “She hasn’t. When?”
I have to get my money back from the media buyer,” Johnson replies.
Hines says, “Okay, give me a name. Who can we contact.”
Johnson says, “I am not giving you anymore.”
“Nooooo,” Scott says. “Who can we contact?”
Johnson says, “You’re a pain in the butt, man.”
The “In Your Corner” team should be the least of Johnson’s worries.
He’s also facing more jail time for a second bogus check charge.
Scott Hines asks, “And you’re going to take care of these warrants out of Tulsa and Sequoyah Counties?”
Johnson says, “I don’t see what that’s any of your business?”
Hines says, “I’m just asking.”
Russ Johnson says, “But the answer to your question is, yes.”
Customers, like Crystal, are now realizing one thing.
“I think I may have been scammed,” she said.
In relation to the embezzlement allegations, Russ Johnson is under investigation in Pennsylvania and Oklahoma.
He’s still claims a media buyer in Dallas has Crystal’s cash, but there’s no way for us to verify his claim because he won’t give up the media buyer’s name.
Johnson is scheduled to appear in court next month. You can count on us to be there.