Swallow, Shurtleff used Johnson’s houseboat, Ferrari, jet
Investigation • Warrants reveal officers seized electronic devices, cameras, documents, even $10,000 in cash.

By Robert Gehrke

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: June 24, 2014 09:54AM
Updated: June 24, 2014 08:27AM
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Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune FBI and state law enforcement agents leave John Swallow's residence in Sandy on Monday after searching the home for several hours. Monday, June 2, 2014

Former Utah Attorney General John Swallow tooled around the streets of St. George in Jeremy Johnson’s Ferrari, and his predecessor, Mark Shurtleff, used the embattled businessman’s plane to jet to New York to shuttle a TV actor to a charity event, according to search warrants on their Sandy homes unsealed Monday.

The new court documents show that officers seized a long list of computers, digital storage devices, camcorders, digital cameras, iPods and CDs, along with boxes of documents from the homes of Shurtleff, Swallow and Renae Cowley, who worked as a staffer for both men. Agents also took more than $10,000 in cash from Swallow’s home.

The warrants point to a growing list of potential crimes that law enforcement is investigating, including bribery, evidence tampering, falsifying government records, gift violations and obstruction of justice.

Swallow and Shurtleff, both of whom have denied wrongdoing, are under a joint criminal investigation by the top prosecutors in Salt Lake and Davis counties.

Shurtleff declined to comment Monday on the unsealed warrants. Efforts to reach Swallow’s attorney were unsuccessful.

Officers executed the search warrants June 2 on the three homes. Shurtleff has criticized the heavy-handed, “Dirty Harry” tactics used at his Sandy residence, saying armed officers pointed guns at his children and trashed his home.

The FBI and Utah Department of Public Safety, which conducted the searches, defended the way the warrants were executed and insisted they were done by the book.

There are some blurry copies of photographs attached to the warrants, but it is difficult to tell what damage might have been done.

The new court documents show the degree of generosity shown by Johnson, a St. George businessman who made tens of millions of dollars through his I Works company before federal regulators shut it down. He now faces a federal lawsuit in Las Vegas and 86 federal criminal counts in Salt Lake City.

Johnson aide Terrance Jacob said Swallow drove Johnson’s Ferrari several times when he visited St. George, and — as has previously been reported — twice used Johnson’s luxury Lake Powell houseboat, a 75-foot-long floating mansion with numerous cabins, a home theater and a helipad.

During their April 30, 2012, meeting at an Orem Krispy Kreme doughnut shop, Swallow asked Johnson, who secretly recorded their conversation, if there were any records of Swallow using the houseboat.

“Is there any paper trail on that?” Swallow asked Johnson.

“There’s no paper trail on the houseboat,” Johnson replied. “Nobody knows about it.”

Swallow has said that he believed use of the boat was a gift from a friend and that he paid for the fuel, food and personal watercraft. He used the boat at Lake Powell while he was Shurtleff’s chief deputy attorney general.

Jacob said Johnson also had a home in Santa Monica, Calif., and five or six in St. George. Jacob told investigators that Shurtleff stayed in Johnson’s St. George home on three occasions.

In previously released email exchanges, Shurtleff lets Johnson know he is arriving at the home and thanks him for letting him use the residence.

Another Johnson aide, Karen Beck Redd, told investigators that, on one instance, Shurtleff used Johnson’s Cessna Citation business jet to fly to New York and pick up actor Vincent D’Onofrio — best known as a police officer on the TV show “Law & Order” — and take him to a fundraiser.

D’Onofrio has been a supporter of the Meth Cops program, a charity Shurtleff has actively supported, designed to help police officers sweat out toxins after being exposed to chemicals while busting meth houses. It has its roots in the religion of Scientology, but the state has given tens of thousands of dollars to the program.

Redd said Shurtleff also used the houseboat and Johnson’s posh home in Santa Monica, as well.

“Shurtleff was always nice to say thank you for the planes,” she said, “and he was never … like Swallow, [who] I’m pretty sure just went around our backs to get the pilots to take him wherever.”

A Utah House investigation of Swallow noted the gifts came near the time Johnson — who had not yet been charged — was pressing Swallow and the attorney general’s office to give their blessing to the processing of online-poker transactions through a St. George bank in which Johnson was part owner.

Swallow told Johnson he wasn’t aware of any Utah law to prohibit the poker processing — which has since led to federal charges against Johnson’s business partner and others — but Swallow apparently did not consult with any experts in the office and did not give Johnson a formal opinion.

gehrke@sltrib.com

Twitter: @RobertGehrke