Search warrants unveiled in Utah AG investigation

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Associated Press

Posted on January 3, 2014 at 4:04 AM

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Search warrants unveiled Thursday as part of a criminal investigation into the Utah attorney general's office reinforced allegations of shady dealings with businessmen, campaign donors and others.

The warrants detail relationships former Attorneys General John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff had with the payday loan and call center industries and several businessmen in trouble with regulators.

The documents include an informant's allegations that Shurtleff used funds left over from his 2008 campaign to pay $30,000 in personal credit card debt.

They also include accusations that Swallow had donors from the payday loan and call center industries funnel money through political action committees to avoid being linked to those industries during his election campaign.

Neither man has been charged with any crimes. Attorneys for Swallow and Shurtleff did not immediately return calls from The Associated Press on Thursday.

Shurtleff, a Republican, was first elected attorney general in 2000. He decided not to run for re-election in 2012 and was succeeded by his chief deputy, John Swallow.

Swallow, also a Republican, recently resigned.

Shortly after Swallow took office in January 2012, he was inundated with allegations of misconduct, including accusations he orchestrated a bribe and offered businessmen protection in return for favors.

He has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

When he announced in November he would resign, Swallow cited the toll of multiple investigations and said he would clear his name as a private citizen.

The seven warrants and related affidavits unveiled Thursday are part of an ongoing criminal investigation by two Utah county attorneys.

The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office and the Davis County Attorney's Office already have filed criminal charges against an associate of Shurtleff and Swallow as part of that probe.

After Swallow stepped down in December, the Republican-controlled Utah House decided to wind down a separate $2.3 million fact-finding investigation of Swallow. Several lawmakers on the investigative committee said late last month that based on their findings, they would have backed efforts to impeach Swallow had he not resigned.

Many allegations outlined in the warrants Thursday mirror allegations laid out in December by investigators working for the Utah House.

Special counsel working for lawmakers reported last month that Swallow's 2012 attorney general campaign obscured donations from the payday loan industry that were funneled through various groups.

Investigators working for the state criminal probe and the Utah House both said those donations were later used for other political donations and attacks.

According to the court documents revealed Thursday, an informant working for Swallow's campaign told investigators that Swallow himself misled donors into believing they were donating to his campaign.

The donations were actually being used to attack a former lawmaker who sponsored legislation that was tough on the payday loan industry, the informant said.

The informant, who is not identified in the documents, also told investigators that Swallow and others had donors give to other PACs or holding companies to avoid linking the campaign with the payday loan and call center industries.

Before joining the attorney general's office in 2009, Swallow was in private practice. He worked for Nevada businessman Richard Rawle, who owned a chain of payday lending stores.

Investigators said the manager of one of Rawle's stores reported Swallow would sometimes work out of a room in the back of the building during his campaign.

In December, special counsel working for the House reported Rawle provided Swallow free, unreported office space to use during his campaign.

Besides the investigations by county prosecutors and Utah lawmakers, Swallow was the subject of two complaints at the Utah State Bar, which were later dismissed.

In September, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it was closing a federal bribery probe without filing any charges against Swallow.

Republican Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, whose office oversees elections, announced two months later he would not pursue civil penalties against Swallow for alleged campaign disclosure violations. Cox's office said a four-month investigation found probable cause that Swallow failed to disclose business interests on his campaign forms.

Cox chose not to pursue the matter in court because Swallow already had announced he was resigning.

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Associated Press writer Paul Foy contributed to this report.

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