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Utah asks for multi-million dollar grant fraud lawsuit to be dismissed

Utah State Capitol
Posted at 1:46 PM, Jul 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-26 15:46:07-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Lawyers for the state of Utah and a number of current and former high-ranking employees are asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit alleging millions in grant fraud.

The federal government claims it is as much as $50 million that taxpayers were bilked out of in public safety grants. However, the Utah Attorney General's Office has said the number in question in the legal dispute is closer to $10 million.

In a new court filing, attorneys representing the state and the employees ask a judge to throw out the lawsuit. They argue, in essence, that federal prosecutors have failed to show specific examples of state officials submitting false claims for policing grants. The Utah Attorney General's Office claims it supplied over 35,000 pages of documents and made employees available for questioning.

"The United States has had every opportunity to plead its case alleging civil fraud, and it has failed to do so," wrote Eric Maxfield, an attorney for the firm Holland & Hart, representing the state.

There is also no evidence to show that anyone was personally enriched by any alleged fraud, the filing states.

The U.S. Department of Justice's lawsuit against the state is rooted in a 2015 complaint filed by an inmate at the Utah State Prison. Reginald Williams claimed he uncovered evidence of grant fraud while working in the prison's print shop. He hired a lawyer and stated talking with federal agents. The Justice Department went after the state and top public safety officials who worked under Governor Gary Herbert.

The feds have claimed the Utah Attorney General's Office, the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, the Utah Administrative Office of the Courts and the Utah Department of Public Safety and public safety officials falsely claimed job losses and budget cuts to get millions in grant money from 2009 to 2015.

FOX 13 reported in March that the Utah Attorney General's Office confirmed it was in settlement talks with the federal government.