The 5 Wildest Details In The Arrests Of Ex-Utah Attorneys General

Former Utah Attorneys General Mark Shurtleff (left) and John Swallow shown after being released from jail on Tuesday, July 15, 2014.
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Former Utah attorneys general Mark Shurtleff and John Swallow were accused Tuesday of numerous bribery and obstruction of justice charges, most of them felonies. The charging documents from the Salt Lake City district attorney allege a decadent lifestyle of private jets, all-expense-paid vacations and veiled threats of violence for those who caused trouble.

Shurtleff, a Republican, served as the state’s top legal official from 2001 to 2013. He was succeeded by Swallow, also a Republican, who had been one of his top deputies. Swallow resigned less than a year after taking office, as federal and state investigations into his and Shurtleff’s alleged improprieties intensified. Both men had also pursued failed bids for Congress (Shurtleff for a U.S. Senate seat in 2009; Swallow for a House seat in 2002 and 2004.)

Now, the men who served as the top legal officials in Utah stand accused of soliciting bribes, accepting gifts, money laundering and interfering with the resulting criminal investigation. TPM parsed through the charging documents from the district attorney to find a few of the juiciest and most unbelievable details from the massive alleged corruption scheme.

1. Luxury Houseboats, Resort Vacations, And Private Airplane Rides

While one of the duo’s alleged associates, Mark Jenson, was on probation for securities fraud, he allegedly paid for Shurtleff and Swallow to vacation at Pelican Hills Resort in Newport Coast, Calif., twice in 2009. The resort was rated by Conde Nast Traveler’s readers as one of the best hotels in the world from 2011 to 2014. The trip included massages, golf rounds, dining and men’s apparel — all allegedly paid for by Jenson. Swallow and his wife allegedly stayed there in July 2009 for their wedding anniversary as well.

They also traveled in style on the dime of their business friends, prosecutors allege. At the same time Swallow was allegedly working behind the scenes to help another associate, Jeremy Johnson, as he was being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission, Swallow allegedly spent two nights on Johnson’s 80-foot luxury houseboat in the fall 2010. Shurtleff and Swallow also allegedly took Johnson’s private aircraft on flights to and from California and St. George, Utah.

2. Shurtleff Allegedly Had A Fixer Who Threatened To ‘Bust People Up’

Shurtleff allegedly had an associate who thought of himself as something of a bodyguard or fixer for the attorney general, according to the documents.

In one instance outlined by prosecutors, the man, Timothy Lawson, allegedly used Shurtleff’s name when trying to get someone to back off from trying to collect on a $100,000 business loan that had gone bad in a third-party dispute. Lawson compared himself to “Porter Rockwell” to explain his relationship with Shurtleff, the documents state. The reference was apparently to Orrin Porter Rockwell, the legendary bodyguard for Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church.

In his quest to stymie the dispute, Lawson also allegedly told one of the parties that he possessed guns and “Polynesian friends” who would “bust people up.”

3. Swallow Allegedly Offered Access To Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

One of the primary focuses of the investigation was Shurtleff and Swallow’s alleged efforts to help Johnson in securing approval for online poker in Utah and navigating the FTC probe. In September 2010, Swallow allegedly told Johnson that he might be able to help him with the FTC investigation by offering him access to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) through another associate. The access, he allegedly warned, “won’t be cheap.”

Shortly afterward, Johnson allegedly wired a total of $250,000 to Swallow’s business associate, Richard Rawle. Rawle then allegedly paid Swallow $8,500.

Reid’s office has previously dismissed the connections to the Shurtleff-Swallow case and the resulting questions from critics, saying that Reid “has never been contacted in regards to this investigation.”

4. Burner Phones And Secret Meetings At Krispy Kreme

As all of these alleged indiscretions piled up, the defendants — Swallow in particular — seemed to realize that they were potentially at risk. Swallow allegedly met with Johnson at a Krispy Kreme in April 2012, to discuss his possible vulnerabilities. Johnson allegedly advised that the $250,000 paid for possible access to Reid be repaid and that all relevant emails deleted.

Swallow also allegedly told a campaign staffer to purchase a “burner,” or pre-paid, cell phone — with cash — a few weeks after the Krispy Kreme meeting. He allegedly asked that his government laptop be wiped of its data, telling his office’s tech support staff that he had it backed up on an external hard drive. He later claimed he had lost the hard drive during a flight from Phoenix to Salt Lake City, according to the documents.

Swallow also allegedly obtained death-bed testimony from Rawle, who died of cancer in December 2012, by providing notes to Rawle’s attorney for “anyone who would be interested at some point, including the court.”

5. Gold Coins And A Pre-Paid Debit Card

Prior to joining the attorney general’s office, according to prosecutors, Swallow had worked with Rawle as general counsel for his payday lending business. When he left the company to join Shurtleff’s office in 2009, Swallow allegedly received a dozen gold one-ounce coins as payment.

Then between June 2011 and February 2012, Swallow allegedly sold the coins back to Rawle over 10 transactions for a total sum of $17,000. Swallow allegedly asked that the money be put onto a pre-paid debit card. Swallow then allegedly gave false or inconsistent statements about the coin sales while being deposed by the Utah lieutenant governor’s office in October 2013.

Bonus Detail: A Flight To Meet ‘Law & Order’ Star Vincent D’Onofrio

Though not present in the court documents reviewed by TPM, the Deseret News, which broke the news of the arrests on Tuesday morning, reported that Shurtleff is also alleged to have flown to New York in Johnson’s jet to meet with actor Vincent D’Onofrio of “Law & Order” and “Men in Black” fame.

Photos: Former Utah Attorneys General Mark Shurtleff (left) and John Swallow are shown after being released from Salt Lake County jail on Tuesday.

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