2 ex-Utah attorneys general charged with bribery

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Two former Utah attorneys general are denying any wrongdoing after they were arrested on an array of bribery charges stemming from cozy relationships with several businessmen.

Both John Swallow and Mart Shurtleff were released from jail after being arrested at their homes Tuesday morning.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill accuses them of accepting payoffs involving gold coins, swanky resorts and other luxury gifts. Gill said the investigation is ongoing and additional charges will likely be filed against both men and others.

When Swallow walked out of jail Tuesday afternoon, he said he'd known for a few weeks that his arrest was likely to happen.

Shurtleff said the charges leveled against him are completely false and motivated by a politically charged investigation. Both Swallow and Shurtleff are Republicans, while Gill is a Democrat.

Here's some highlights of the allegations:

LUXURY GIFTS

Authorities said both Swallow and Shurtleff used a luxury jet and personal property belonging to a businessman indicted on federal fraud charges. Swallow also used the businessman's million-dollar houseboat on Lake Powell.

In another case from 2008, Shurtleff negotiated a plea deal for a Utah businessman facing fraud charges that was so lenient a judge wouldn't accept it. After a more stringent deal was reached and the businessman was on probation, he put up Shurtleff and Swallow at a high-end Newport Beach resort and bought them meals, rounds of golf, clothing and massages, prosecutors said.

When Swallow left his job at a Utah payday loan company to join the attorney general's office, his employer gave him a 12 one-ounce gold coin, court documents said. While he was a chief deputy in the attorney general's office, Swallow sold back the coins one or two at a time to the same former employer, receiving $17,000 in all, which is more than they are worth, Gill said.

INFLUENCE PEDDLING

In 2012, the attorney general's office intervened in a lawsuit against a Bank of America subsidiary on behalf of thousands of Utah residents facing foreclosure. The Salt Lake City-area couple that brought the suit then spent $28,000 holding a campaign fundraising party for Swallow. The couple's individual case was settled favorably, but Shurtleff in December directed the attorney general's office drop the state case, despite objections from staff attorneys. Prosecutors said a division chief in the Utah attorney general's office reported Swallow indicated to Bank of America that Utah would drop the case if the couple's case was settled favorably. Shurtleff later accepted a position with a Washington, D.C., law firm that represented Bank of America.

PAY TO PLAY

Both former attorneys general are accused of taking at least $50,000 in cash or campaign contributions from people who came under scrutiny from their office. One businessman claimed in 2009 that Shurtleff had offered him $2 million if he stopped trying to find a suspected swindler. In 2010, a St. George businessman's online company came under federal investigation. Authorities said he asked Swallow to secure a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Swallow responded by saying he has a liaison to Reid but it "won't be cheap," court documents state. The businessman later paid $250,000 to the liaison, who in turn paid Swallow more than $23,000. The businessman, who now faces dozens of federal fraud charges, claims the plot was to bribe Reid to throw off investigators. Reid and Swallow have denied that. Swallow said he was connecting the businessman with lobbyists and the $23,000 was for separate consulting work. Reid has not been implicated in the investigation.

COVER UPS

In May 2013, Shurtleff lied to FBI investigators about practices in the attorney general's office, campaign donations, gifts and bribes, charging documents state. During subsequent state investigations, both Swallow and Shurtleff gave false information to investigators, Gill said. Swallow is also accused of destroying evidence and falsifying invoices and other documents to cover up his conflicts of interest.


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment