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(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Attorney General John Swallow talks to members of the media outside of his office at the Utah State Capitol Wednesday June 19, 2013.
Obstruction of justice? Swallow fabricated documents, investigators say

Investigators say ex-A.G. fabricated documents and destroyed data.

First Published Dec 19 2013 11:18 am • Last Updated Dec 20 2013 05:15 pm

John Swallow left a 2012 meeting at Krispy Kreme with Jeremy Johnson so alarmed that he was in the cross hairs of federal investigators that Swallow took drastic measures to cover his tracks and ties to the indicted businessman, Utah House investigators said Thursday.

In the weeks that followed, Swallow obliterated his electronic footprints and created new documents designed to mislead anyone who might delve into his activities, according to evidence pieced together by a five-month investigation by a special House committee.

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At a glance

Attempt at a cover-up?

Special counsel Steve Reich and House investigators alleged the following improper actions, among others, taken by former Attorney General John Swallow:

Fabricated evidence

» Created postdated invoices in 2012 for work Swallow supposedly did on a Nevada cement project in 2010 and 2011 for Check City owner Richard Rawle.

» Listed questionable entries, after the fact, in a time-management journal showing when and how many hours he worked for Rawle.

» Helped prepare a declaration Rawle signed three days before his death that Swallow later said Rawle’s team had created.

Destroyed evidence

» Deleted emails from a personal account.

» Directed an attorney general’s office computer tech to erase hard drives on his work computers and replace a hard drive on a home computer.

» Deleted electronic calendar items.

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"We believe the evidence here shows Mr. Swallow panicked following the Krispy Kreme meeting, thinking about the consequences that would occur in terms of his political run for attorney general if Mr. Johnson went public with his allegations," said Steve Reich, special counsel to the committee. "And it was this panic that led him down a path of evidence elimination and evidence fabrication."

Within weeks of the doughnut shop exchange, Swallow had thehard drives on his state-issued computers wiped clean and appears to have purged thousands of emails, later lying to the public and investigators about their disappearance, Reich said. He bought a "burner" phone that couldn’t be traced and created a fake paper trail for consulting work he did on a Nevada cement project.

"Based on the record available to us, our conclusion is that the Krispy Kreme meeting that Mr. Swallow had with Jeremy Johnson … set off a months-long spree where Mr. Swallow destroyed or lost records while creating new ones designed to support his version of events."

His record of behavior, his shifting story and attempts to mislead investigators and the public, taken as a whole, Reich said, cannot be innocently explained away.

"This is offensive," said Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, a member of the committee. " ... I think voters and the people of the state of Utah ought to be outraged by this."

Swallow’s attorney, Rod Snow, suggested Reich was presenting information in a manner that justifies the price tag of the probe — approaching $3 million — and insisted documents weren’t created or deleted to mislead or stymie investigators.

"I can see how and why Reich is connecting these dots, but I disagree with the way he is connecting the dots," Snow said. "There are innocent explanations that are just as plausible as those put forth by Reich. But the committee does not want to hear or believe that."

Neither Swallow, nor his GOP predecessor, former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, agreed to be interviewed by House investigators.

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Lawmakers cut short their probe after Swallow, a Republican, announced Nov. 21 he was resigning as attorney general, citing the financial strain of defending himself and saying he believed the GOP-led House probe was calculated to drive him from office.

Reich’s account painted a damning picture of Swallow’s actions after the meeting at the Orem doughnut shop.

The encounter’s main topic was $250,000 that Johnson and his business partner, Scott Leavitt, had paid in 2010 to Swallow’s former employer, Richard Rawle, the owner of the Provo-based Check City payday-loan chain, to help Johnson with a looming federal investigation into his business.

By the time of the April 30, 2012, meeting, Johnson had been indicted, accused of defrauding customers out of millions of dollars. He and Leavitt, who had put his house on the line to pay Rawle, wanted their money back.

During their exchange, Johnson alluded to the federal probe, and suggested Swallow, then a chief deputy attorney general, would be an attractive target. The St. George businessman warned Swallow that if he had received any of the money from the deal with Rawle, it would be hard to explain.

Swallow had, in fact, received part of the money Johnson paid — $23,500 that Swallow said he had received for consulting on a Nevada cement project. Swallow was clearly concerned about federal investigators.

"I think I’m their target," Swallow said.

In the weeks after the meeting, the House committee discovered, Swallow created invoices to justify payments he had received more than a year earlier from Rawle and made entries in his day planner meant to support the hours billed on the invoices.

However, Reich said, investigators were suspicious of the entries and, when the hours he billed Rawle for on the cement project were lined up with the time sheets for work in the attorney general’s office, it showed that he was working 18 hours, 20 hours, even 24 hours in a given day.

Swallow didn’t come clean about the backdated records until weeks of investigation produced evidence they were fabricated and investigators confronted Snow about the inconsistencies.

It was part of a pattern, Reich said, of constantly "shifting and, at times, contradictory" stories Swallow told to investigators to explain his actions that "go well beyond the normal frailties of human recollection."

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