Probe sought into claims about Utah attorney general

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Democrats are pressing for an independent investigation into allegations that newly elected Utah Attorney General John Swallow helped arrange a deal to quash a federal probe into a businessman.

State Democratic Chair Jim Dabakis said Utah’s “overwhelming one-party rule” by Republicans makes it difficult for the public to have confidence in a local investigation. He asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the allegations.

“These are very serious charges that have been made about the highest levels of Utah’s elected leaders,” Dabakis said in a statement. “The people of Utah deserve to know if their elected officials are crooks or unethical.”

Indicted businessman Jeremy Johnson, accused of running a fraudulent $350 million software scheme, alleged Swallow arranged a deal to pay U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to quash a federal investigation into the software business.

Johnson, who is accused of billing hundreds of thousands of consumers for products they never ordered, told The Salt Lake Tribune that Swallow set up a deal in 2010 for Johnson to pay $600,000 to people connected to Reid.

Johnson says he believed the Nevada senator might intervene in the Federal Trade Commission’s investigation.

Swallow, a Republican, denied the allegations. He said he only offered to connect Johnson with a lobbying firm. At the time, he was serving as Utah’s chief deputy attorney general.

The case was set to go to trial after an agreement with the government fell apart Friday. Johnson has pleaded not guilty.

On Sunday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Salt Lake City issued a statement concerning reports that federal prosecutors “informally agreed” not to prosecute Swallow in the Johnson case. “This assertion is completely untrue. This statement does not imply that there is or is not an investigation pending against Mr. Swallow,” the office said.

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