Utah AG accused of soliciting bribes in federal case

Posted at 10:31 PM, Jan 12, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-14 00:50:53-05

SALT LAKE CITY - Utah's newly appointed Attorney General John Swallow is already facing allegations that he solicited money to influence high-level federal officials.

Multimillionaire and philanthropist Jeremy Johnson, who faces felony accusations of fraud under his Internet company I Works, says Swallow essentially solicited a bribe from Johnson to secure a better deal with federal prosecutors in his case.

Johnson says he was told $600,000 would be enough to get Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to step in, stopping the federal investigation.

But Swallow says those allegations are ludicrous. He says he simply introduced Johnson to a friend who could help lobby the federal government.

"Jeremy Johnson is desperate to do and say anything possible to attempt to secure a better deal with federal prosecutors," Swallow said in a statement released Saturday night.

Two of Johnson's close associates say Johnson almost agreed to a plea deal in order to save a list of friends and family members - including Swallow - from prosecution. That plea fell apart in court on Friday.

As part of his defense against the allegations, on Saturday, Swallow released an affidavit from businessman Richard Rawle, who said he received $250,000 meant to lobby the Federal Trade Commission in support of Johnson.

$100,000 of that money went to pay lobbyists, $50,000 went to Rawle as a fee for his service and $100,000 went to business investments, including P-Solutions, a company partially owned by Swallow.

Security consultant and former police officer Rob Joseph, who was once close to Swallow, tells FOX 13 an investigation is underway.

"The FBI has obviously been investigating this case and probably has a lot of information," Joseph said.

When asked how he knows the case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Joseph said, "I just know the FBI has been investigating this case."

Swallow says the FBI has not informed him that he is the subject of an investigation.

The U.S. Attorney for Utah released a statement on Sunday, saying, "It has been reported that federal prosecutors informally agreed not to prosecute John Swallow. This assertion is completely untrue. 
"This statement does not imply that there is or is not an investigation pending against Mr. Swallow."

Utah Democrats want to see a federal investigation into the allegations against Swallow. State Democratic Party Chair Jim Dabakis says the investigation needs to come from outside Utah's GOP because of its dominance in local government.

"The people of Utah have got to be assured that their public officials are not crooks or unethical," Dabakis told FOX 13. "That's why we're insistent that this investigation be done by someone who doesn't have a dog in the fight."

The Utah Republican Party isn't making an official statement and most GOP lawmakers who talked to FOX 13 say they're neither defending Swallow nor passing judgement against him. Dabakis says it's time for someone to make a comment.

"I think it`s time for law enforcement to say, 'Yeah, we're looking into this,' because right now, all we hear is a lot of 'no comments' from everybody." Dabakis said.

Utah Rep. Richard Greenwood, R-Roy, supports Swallow and says investigators from out of state aren't necessary.

"I think he's going too far. I think we have plenty of people in Utah that are independent that can carry an investigation," Greenwood said. "I think the attorney general would welcome an investigation because I'm sure he hasn't done anything wrong."

Other state Republican leaders say an investigation should happen.

“My position is if Swallow did what they claim he did, that’s horrible, but I really don’t know.  I think he should get this out in the air and get it done but in terms of an investigation, I think the U.S. Attorney’s Office is competent enough to handle this,” said Senator Lyle Hillyard in a statement released this weekend.

“It’s important the facts come out on this. It would surprise me if more Republicans don’t join the call for investigation. My question is, is that Eric Holder or the FBI in Utah, I don’t know,” said Senator Curt Bramble in a statement released this weekend.