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Warrants allege how Mark Shurtleff, John Swallow used political power

SALT LAKE CITY — Affable and outgoing with a big personality, Mark Shurtleff enjoyed being around people during his 12 years as Utah attorney general.

Shurtleff's handpicked successor, John Swallow, didn't display the same panache as his one-time boss, opting for a lower profile.

But search warrants trickling out in the criminal cases against the two former attorneys general continue to enlarge the picture of men who hobnobbed with wealthy businessmen and campaign donors living on the edge of the law.

Court documents depict, particularly in Shurtleff's case, an elected official who used the power of his office to intervene not only in his friends' business affairs but also their personal lives.

And the documents outline examples of what people were willing to do or pay — often through Shurtleff's self-described "fixer" Tim Lawson — to gain access to the attorney general for help with their legal troubles.

Recently unsealed search warrants described Shurtleff partying on his birthday in 2012 at an "underground" nightclub in New York City with his friend Sovatphone Ouk and Edward B. "Tedd" Johnson, whose company The Tax Club allegedly defrauded consumers of millions of dollars.

Ouk and his company, Global Marketing Design, gave $32,600 to Shurtleff's 2008 attorney general campaign and $2,400 to his short-lived U.S. Senate campaign in 2009.

The Utah Division of Consumer Protection issued Ouk's company, also known as Global Marketing Alliance, an administrative citation in 2011. As part of a settlement, Ouk agreed to pay a fine, was removed from a management position and banned from telemarketing.

Johnson donated $4,800 to Shurtleff's failed U.S. Senate campaign, and his company gave $40,000 to Shurtleff's 2008 attorney general campaign. The Federal Trade Commission settled its complaint against The Tax Club last summer, ordering it to give up $15 million in assets and banning it from selling business coaching services and work-at-home opportunities.

The warrants include emails between top administrators in Shurtleff's office who were apparently unsure how to confront the boss with some of the things they were learning.

In one 2009 exchange, now-retired law enforcement chief Ken Wallentine writes to former chief deputy Kirk Torgensen that he, Wallentine, should communicate better with Shurtleff but it's a "little touchy," telling him Ouk bragged about "getting around FEC (Federal Election Commission) rules to help Mark."

"As long as Mark doesn't ask me to do anything plainly illegal or unethical, he gets to call the shots. Even if I don't think it is politically smart or fundamentally the best choice," Wallentine wrote.

The warrant doesn't say what rules Ouk might have skirted, but says he provided office space for Shurtleff's Senate campaign that was not reported to the FEC.

The warrants also offer more details about Lawson, who described himself as "Porter Rockwell" and said he took care of things for Shurtleff. Rockwell was known as LDS Church founder Joseph Smith's roughneck bodyguard.

Lawson was the principal in a Provo company called SlipStream International LLC, that was building a hovercraft.

A man named John Morgan, who worked at the company, told investigators he supplied SlipStream with building materials, construction equipment and thousands of dollars of his own money to get access to Shurtleff.

According to the warrant, Morgan heard Lawson and Shurtleff "doing things together" with the hovercraft, such as moving "missionaries" between the Marshall Islands.

Lawson promised Morgan that Shurtleff would help him with a lawsuit in which he was involved in exchange for the materials he provided SlipStream, according to the warrant. Morgan gave investigators a January 2009 email Lawson sent to Shurtleff asking him to review that case and saying Morgan "doesn't deserve to be railroaded like this."

Morgan told investigators Lawson threatened to have "Polynesians beat him up" if he crossed him, which Morgan understood to mean talking to police.

During an interview with investigators last October, Morgan said, "I did not bribe Mark Shurtleff." He told them he would prefer the word "lobby." Shurtleff never did help Morgan with his lawsuit, according to the warrant.

Morgan told investigators SlipStream was a "sham" and that it went out of business.

Lawson faces multiple felony charges for retaliating against witnesses, witness tampering, obstructing justice, bribery, falsifying tax information to hide income and failing to pay taxes. Court documents allege Lawson attempted to intimidate or threaten people who had apparent ties to Shurtleff and Swallow.

A preliminary hearing in the Lawson case is scheduled for next month.

The warrants also touch on the trips Swallow and Shurtleff took to the posh Pelican Hill resort in Southern California paid for by convicted felon Marc Sessions Jenson. According to court documents, Jenson paid Lawson $120,000 for access to Shurtleff on his legal issues.

Jenson is serving a 10-year prison sentence for selling unregistered securities. Earlier this month he was acquitted of fraud charges in an unrelated case involving the failed $3.5 billion Mount Holly Club resort project in Beaver County.

Jenson accused Swallow and Shurtleff of shaking him down for money and favors and could be a key witness in the criminal cases against them.

How or whether prosecutors will use information in the latest warrants in the criminal cases against Shurtleff and Swallow is unclear. Some of the details are in the charging documents that describe the alleged crimes, while some are not.

It was seven months ago Sunday that the Salt Lake and Davis County attorneys charged Shurtleff with nine felonies and Swallow with 11 felonies and two misdemeanors after a sweeping public corruption investigation.

A first glimpse of the evidence prosecutors would use against Swallow could be seen at a preliminary hearing in June. The state will try to persuade a 3rd District Court judge that there's enough to order him to stand trial.

Shurtleff is scheduled to be in court March 23 when a judge will likely schedule a preliminary hearing.

Both Shurtleff and Swallow have maintained their innocence.

Another person on prosecutors' witness list, Paul Benson, told investigators he was at Pelican Hill when Swallow and Shurtleff where there in the summer of 2009. He said he sat next to Swallow on the plane ride home and asked him why he was at Pelican Hill.

"Yes, … he was very clear that he was the heir to the attorney general. He made it very clear, 'I'm going to be the next attorney general,'" Benson told investigators.

Swallow won the job three years later after Shurtleff opted to not seek a third term. Swallow resigned under fire a year into his term.

The Tax Club, the company owned by Johnson, donated $25,000 to Swallow's 2012 campaign.

In a text message exchange a week after the election, Johnson asked Swallow about being appointed to head a committee to promote small business and economic growth and "having a title with you could really open some doors for me."

"I'd obviously recipicate (sic) by promoting your current and future political plans by bringing all my current and future partners on board," Johnson wrote. "I know I could be instrumental in your future success."

Swallow replied that he was thinking about starting a business committee and wrote, "So let's chat."

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