Convict says Swallow offered protection for part of ski resort

Jun 17 2013 - 2:55pm

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FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2012 file photo, Attorney General John Swallow talks with supporters following his victory during the Utah State GOP election night watch party in Salt Lake City. Legislative leaders troubled by the latest allegations of misconduct leveled against Swallow say they are frustrated by the slow pace of a federal investigation. House Speaker Becky Lockhart tells The Salt Lake Tribune that impeachment of the new attorney general is among options legislators will discuss at the Utah Capitol next week. The latest allegations come from a convicted fraudster. Marc Jenson has told The Tribune that in 2009 he paid for meals, golf and massages for then-Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and Swallow at a California resort. The Utah attorney general's office had charged him with felonies months earlier. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2012 file photo, Attorney General John Swallow talks with supporters following his victory during the Utah State GOP election night watch party in Salt Lake City. Legislative leaders troubled by the latest allegations of misconduct leveled against Swallow say they are frustrated by the slow pace of a federal investigation. House Speaker Becky Lockhart tells The Salt Lake Tribune that impeachment of the new attorney general is among options legislators will discuss at the Utah Capitol next week. The latest allegations come from a convicted fraudster. Marc Jenson has told The Tribune that in 2009 he paid for meals, golf and massages for then-Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and Swallow at a California resort. The Utah attorney general's office had charged him with felonies months earlier. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

SALT LAKE CITY -- A businessman imprisoned on fraud charges said Utah's attorney general offered to protect him years ago in exchange for a "piece" of a private ski resort.

In a new court filing, Marc Jenson described his first encounter with John Swallow, three or more years before Swallow ascended to attorney general.

"When I get into the office, you're going to need me," Jenson said he was told.

At the time, Swallow was then-Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's chief fundraiser and his hand-picked successor.

The allegation was made in a statement accompanying a motion that seeks to disqualify the Utah Attorney General's Office from prosecuting Jenson on a new set of fraud charges. The papers were filed in court Saturday. Jenson is accused of fraudulently raising money and misappropriating investor funds while promoting the members-only resort.

Jenson alleged Shurtleff also tried to shake him down by instructing him to make what turned out to be $200,000 in payments to a "conduit" close to Shurtleff and Swallow. Jenson says he was rewarded with new charges when he refused to pay more.

Swallow, a Republican, has denied any wrongdoing. The Utah Attorney General's Office referred The Associated Press on Monday to Rod Snow, Swallow's private lawyer, who promised a response later Monday. Shurtleff didn't immediately return a phone message.

Jenson is the latest in a series of Utah businessmen in trouble with regulatory agencies who claim Shurtleff and Swallow used threats of prosecution to extract money from them.

Swallow was inundated with allegations of impropriety since shortly after he assumed office in January. He's the subject of a federal criminal investigation, a campaign finance probe state officials are handing off to outside lawyers, and complaints filed at the Utah State Bar Association.

On Wednesday, Republicans in the Utah House of Representatives plan to discuss possible impeachment proceedings against Swallow.

Swallow requested "a piece of Mount Holly," Jenson said in a declaration filed Saturday in 3rd District Court. Mount Holly was the name of a defunct ski area that Jenson was trying to turn into a members-only resort for millionaires.

Jenson said he agreed to give Swallow a $1 million building lot, and was rewarded with a plea-in-abeyance deal on earlier fraud charges for business dealings unrelated to the ski area.

The plea deal, which could have seen the charges eventually dismissed and no restitution paid to investors, fell apart when a judge refused to accept it. Jenson was later ordered to repay investors $4 million. He is being held for failing to make restitution.

Jenson is due to appear in court June 24 on charges related to his fundraising for the exclusive ski area.

Other investors have resurrected it as Eagle Point, 18 miles west of Beaver, Utah -- a resort open to the public.

Jenson says he first met Shurtleff April 30, 2005, at a "Law Day" event in Salt Lake City.

"I recall Mr. Shurtleff confronting me to say his office was taking a 'close look' at me," Jenson said in the declaration. The remark was followed up by "suspicious calls" from people asking if they could invest millions of dollars with him, even though he didn't advertise, he said.

Jenson described a meeting he later held with Shurtleff at Red Rock restaurant in downtown Salt Lake City. His declaration offers no date, but Jenson said it came after his sentencing on the earlier fraud charges.

"Mr. Shurtleff asked for my forgiveness and told me if I had contributed to his campaign, he would have known me and this never would have happened," Jenson said.
Shurtleff instructed him to "stay close" and keep making payments to a shadowy associate of Shurtleff and Swallow's during the term of his plea of abeyance, he said.

A year later, Jenson welcomed Shurtleff and Swallow on one of their visits to his villa at The Resort at Pelican Hill, Newport Coast, Calif., according to the declaration. Shurtleff and Swallow have acknowledged they made the visits.

At the California resort, Shurtleff suggested Jenson could order copies of a book he was publishing, "Am I Not A Man? The Dred Scott Story," according to Jenson.

"They told me I could buy a large quantity of Mr. Shurtleff's book as a way to pay money to Mr. Shurtleff, and that I didn't even have to accept delivery," Jenson said. "I did not go along with the idea."

Shurtleff has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and questioned Jenson's credibility as a convicted fraudster.

 

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