Ex Utah AGs Arrested In Black Friday Bribery Scheme

July 18th, 2014 | by Kaycee James
It's a "dark day" for Utah says Governor Gary R. Herbert about the arrests of two former Utah state attorneys general.

Ex Utah Attorneys General Mark Shurtleff (left) and John Swallow have been taken into custody in Salt Lake City. (Image: AP/Salt Lake County Sheriff)

The dark tapestry of illegal money processing, shady dealings and bribery that once shrouded the US online poker scene in shame came to the fore once again this week. Following an ongoing investigation by Federal agents, former Utah Attorneys General John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff were arrested on a string of charges, including accepting bribes from a former online poker payment processor. According to reports, both Swallow and Shurtleff had dealings with the co-founder of Elite Debit, Jeremy Johnson.

After using the services of the Sun First Bank to process illegal online poker payments, both Elite Debit and its founders, Johnson and Chad Elie, were put under investigation by the Department of Justice (DoJ).

The two businessmen were eventually found guilty of unlawful money processing during the Black Friday trials and indicted by the DoJ. Following the indictments, Elie was sentenced to five months in prison and while his problems now appear to be behind him, Johnson seems to be embroiled in a fresh controversy.

Bribery Allegations Could Involve Reid

In court documents obtained by the Washington Post, Johnson allegedly paid Swallow more than $200,000 in contributions towards Shurtleff’s re-election campaign. On top of this, Johnson claims that he made a $250,000 down payment to Swallow as part of an alleged $600,000 bribe of US Senator Harry Reid to derail an investigation into his company, IWorks.

Adding to this allegation, testimony from Elie states that he accompanied Swallow and Johnson to a shed in one of the latter’s properties. According to Elie, the shed contained a number of safes filled with gold bars and cash. Elie claims that Johnson handed Swallow a bag stuffed with $20,000 in cash before the trio parted ways. Elie maintains that his only involvement with Johnson was through the online poker world and Elite Debit, and that he had no part in IWork or any plans to bribe Senator Reid.

Reid Denies Involvement

Further to this, a spokesperson for Reid explained that the Senator has “no knowledge or involvement regarding Mr. Johnson’s case.” However, with Swallow and Shurtleff now under investigatio, the Nevada-based senator could find himself facing yet more questioning as more information comes to light.

In total, the two former legal figures will now have to answer 23 charges, including bribery, and face up to 30 years in prison if found guilty. Commenting on the case, Utah Governor Gary Herbert described the arrests as a “black eye” for the state and a “sad day for Utah.”


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