New allegation: John Swallow asked for $120K from jailed businessman

New recording, texts show worries about keeping information secret

By Sammy Linebaugh

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 18 2013 10:00 p.m. MST

A Utah attorney claims that John Swallow — while he was chief deputy attorney general — asked for $120,000 from a jailed St. George businessman to help him fight his legal troubles.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah attorney claims that John Swallow — while he was chief deputy attorney general — asked for $120,000 from a jailed St. George businessman to help him fight his legal troubles.

Travis Marker's allegations are part of a declaration he was asked to provide to members of the House committee investigating allegations of wrongdoing against Swallow, who resigned as attorney general last month.

Marker alleges that Swallow asked for money from his client, Jeremy Johnson, months after Johnson and an associate initially paid $250,000 to Swallow’s former boss in a failed deal to enlist help from federal power players. The Federal Trade Commission sued Johnson’s online marketing company, iWorks, weeks after the money was paid.

In addition to the signed declaration from Marker dated Dec. 17, the Deseret News and KSL have also obtained emails, text messages and an audio recording that appear to reveal, among other information, efforts to avoid public leaks of information involving Swallow.

Marker, a St. George attorney, was Johnson’s personal lawyer during the period of time when Johnson was jailed in the summer of 2011, arrested on a criminal mail fraud charge in connection with the FTC civil lawsuit alleging that iWorks defrauded customers through their Internet marketing practices.

In Marker’s declaration to the House committee, he says he met with Swallow “two or three times” during that summer and believed him to be a personal friend of Johnson.

Marker says he sought the initial meeting on Johnson’s behalf “wanting to know if there were more options with the lobbyists” based on the $250,000 payment that had been made and Johnson’s ongoing battles with lawsuits on two fronts.

“Mr. Swallow gave me the impression that there were no more options via the lobbyists,” Marker wrote in his declaration.

But it was in a subsequent meeting, which Marker says took place in a room just off the Senate cafeteria at the state Capitol, that Swallow suggested more money might make a difference.

“John Swallow indicated that if Jeremy Johnson could provide him more money, he may have more options. I believe the amount requested by John Swallow was $120,000, but I cannot recall exactly the amount he requested,” Marker wrote.

“My response to Mr. Swallow was that Jeremy Johnson had no further financial resources that could produce that type of money because of the injunction in the Nevada case (the FTC lawsuit that effectively froze Johnson’s assets),” Marker said in the declaration.

“Mr. Swallow did not indicate how that money would be spent other than to indicate it might help solve Jeremy Johnson’s legal situation in Utah and potentially Nevada.”

In his declaration to the House committee, Marker also said he is “concerned” that the $120,000 request “may not have been for legitimate lobbying purposes” but added that he couldn’t confirm that suspicion.

Marker also said Swallow appeared to be “very supportive” of Johnson and his family during their meetings. “He never showed anything but genuine concern for Mr. Johnson.”

Attempts to reach Swallow for comment through his attorney were unsuccessful Wednesday.

Marker’s allegations conflict with Swallow’s steadfast claims that he did nothing more than put Johnson in touch with his former boss, the late Check City owner Richard Rawle, whom he believed could help Johnson with his legal troubles by linking him with well-connected lobbyists.

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