SALT LAKE CITY — Investigators continue to build a case for possible criminal charges against former Utah attorneys general John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff.

To date, 15 search warrants have been unsealed in the 18-month probe, including three earlier this week. The latest were served June 2 on the Sandy homes of Swallow and Shurtleff and the Salt Lake condominium of Renae Cowley, a former campaign staffer for the two Republicans who now works as a Salt Lake lobbyist.

The most recent search warrants might be an indication that the probe is winding down. But Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill would not say where the investigation stands.

"We're right in it," he said Friday.

Gill and Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings, along with the FBI and the Utah Department of Public Safety, are investigating Shurtleff and Swallow for a long list of possible crimes, according to court documents.

Each warrant sought evidence in connection with:

Using their position to secure privileges

Accepting gifts, compensation or loans

Obstruction of justice

Bribery

Receiving or soliciting a bribe by a public servant

Accepting a bribe to prevent criminal prosecution

Evidence tampering

Money laundering

A pattern of unlawful activity

In addition to the search warrants, state investigators say they've conducted hundreds of interviews and combed through nearly 200,000 pages of documents and electronic files.

Affidavits for the warrants include some detailed background about the investigation, but Gill said any possible criminal charges may or may not ultimately reflect that information.

"A search warrant with good probable cause tries to give you a description of your solar system. The prosecution of a charge actually tells you what planet you're going to land on," he said.

Shurtleff has been a vocal critic of the investigation and vowed to fight any criminal charges filed against him. Swallow has denied any wrongdoing but has not talked much publicly since resigning last December.

Some of the allegations center on Swallow's and Shurtleff's relationship with Jeremy Johnson, a St. George businessman who is named in an 86-count federal indictment alleging fraud in connection with his online business, iWorks. The once lucrative enterprise also is the subject of a Federal Trade Commission complaint.

According to the search warrant affidavit on Shurtleff, in one incident Johnson flew Shurtleff on his private jet to a fundraiser in California. In another, he used Johnson's plane to fly to New York to pick up actor Vincent D'Onofrio from the TV show "Law & Order." Pictures of Johnson and Shurtleff sitting together in Johnson's yellow Lamborghini are on the Internet, the affidavit states.

Swallow used Johnson's luxury houseboat and Ferrari on several occasions while he was chief deputy in the attorney general's office, the warrant states. At least one of Johnson's houseboats was so large that it included a helicopter pad.

Investigators also are looking at the relationship Shurtleff and Swallow had with another wealthy businessman, Marc Sessions Jenson, and how the attorney general's office handled his prosecution for securities fraud.

A report released earlier this year by Attorney General Sean Reyes described Shurtleff's "unusual" involvement in Jenson's case, which started after some investors, including a campaign contributor, alleged to Shurtleff that Jenson defrauded them. At the same time, Jenson and his associates gained access to Shurtleff by paying his self-described "fixer," Tim Lawson, at least $114,300, according to the report.

Jenson claims Swallow and Shurtleff shook him down during all-expenses-paid visits to his Southern California villa. He also accused Swallow of securing a "quid pro quo" agreement from him for a $1 million lot in the planned members-only resort development known as Mount Holly.

Jenson is serving a 10-year prison term for failing to pay $4.1 million in restitution after pleading no contest to selling unregistered securities.

According to the search warrant, Jenson told investigators that Shurtleff told him he would never have been in trouble had he contributed to Shurtleff's election campaign. Jenson also told investigators that in exchange for the trips and introducing Shurtleff and Swallow to his wealthy friends, he would never have problems in Utah again.

A warrant unsealed in January says Swallow's 2010 election campaign made false statements to the IRS to hide incoming contributions.

An informant told investigators that Swallow's campaign strategist, Jason Powers, set up a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization through which to funnel campaign donations.

At some point the IRS sent a letter to Powers' firm, Guidant Strategies, asking it to qualify the nonprofit's expenses. Powers and an out-of-state attorney falsified a ledger and a response to the IRS because the organization's expenditures did not meet qualifications for a nonprofit entity, the informant told investigators.

Another warrant unsealed in April led to Reyes placing Kirk Torgensen, the former chief deputy attorney general, on leave. Torgensen worked under both Shurtleff and Swallow.

The ongoing investigation has led to one arrest.

Prosecutors allege Lawson used a friendship with Shurtleff and Swallow to influence others using intimidation and aggressive tactics. He faces felony charges for retaliating against witnesses, witness tampering, obstructing justice, bribery, falsifying tax information to hide income and failing to pay taxes.

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com

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