Allegations of corruption land on Shurtleff, Swallow

Published: Tuesday, July 15 2014 7:25 p.m. MDT

The Utah Department of Public Safety became involved in May 2012 when members of the attorney general's office asked it to investigate Timothy Lawson, a Provo man who fancied himself Shurtleff's "fixer."

Lawson's activities appeared to point to a conflict of interest between Shurtleff and Jenson, whom the attorney general's office had prosecuted for selling unregistered securities. Jenson paid Lawson $120,000 for access to Shurtleff, according to court documents.

Lawson was the first person arrested in what Gill described as a pattern of unlawful activity involving Shurtleff and Swallow. Prosecutors charged Lawson in December with retaliating against witnesses, witness tampering, obstructing justice, bribery, falsifying tax information to hide income and failing to pay taxes.

Prosecutors allege Lawson used his friendship with Shurtleff to influence and intimidate with aggressive tactics, including in the Jenson case. He told one businessman that he was like "Porter Rockwell and that he took care of things" for Shurtleff, according to court documents. Porter Rockwell was known as LDS Church founder Joseph Smith's roughneck bodyguard.

Shurtleff personally arranged a plea deal for Jenson that was so lenient that a judge rejected it, the charges state. The judge accepted a second agreement that also allowed Jenson to avoid jail but imposed $4.1 million in restitution. Jenson failed to repay investors and is now serving a 10-year prison sentence.

Shurtleff and Swallow are accused of traveling to the lavish Pelican Hill Resort near Newport Beach, California, on Jenson's dime while he was on probation. Jenson claims they shook him down for money and favors.

Search warrants

To date, at least 15 search warrants have been unsealed in the 18-month probe, including three last month. The latest were served June 2 on the Sandy homes of Swallow and Shurtleff and the Salt Lake condominium of Renae Cowley, a former campaign staffer for the two Republicans who now works as a Salt Lake lobbyist.

The charges against Shurtleff and Swallow won't end the investigation. Gill said investigators will continue to follow leads, but he would not say if more arrests are coming.

"This has been a complex, nuanced, large investigation," he said.

Gill acknowledged the Utah House Special Investigative Committee for its role in the case. The chairman of that committee, Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, said lawmakers turned over everything they gathered to the criminal investigation.

"We did our part," he said.

Dunnigan praised the courage of House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, who pushed for the investigation that focused on Swallow and could have led to an impeachment proceeding had he not resigned.

"We were taking a lot of spears and arrows from people saying we were on a witch hunt," Dunnigan said.

Jeremy Johnson

Swallow came to know Johnson while working as Shurtleff's lead fundraiser in 2008. Johnson gave more than $200,000 to the Shurtleff campaign.

In 2010, Johnson was pushing Swallow, then chief deputy attorney general, for a legal opinion from him and Shurtleff on the legality of banks processing online poker receipts. Johnson had an interest in SunFirst Bank in St. George.

At the same time, Swallow used Johnson's Lake Powell houseboat, flew on Johnson's private jet and stayed at properties he owned.

Shurtleff also is accused of using Johnson's private jet to fly to a fundraiser in California, and in another incident, using his plane to fly to New York to pick up actor Vincent D'Onofrio from the TV show "Law & Order," according to court documents. Pictures of Johnson and Shurtleff sitting together in Johnson's yellow Lamborghini are on the Internet, the affidavits state.

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