Reid denies involvement in Utah businessman scheme

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 14, 2013 at 7:30 pm •  Published: January 14, 2013
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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office said Monday he was never involved in a deal to have a Utah businessman pay the senator to make a federal investigation disappear.

St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson, who's accused of running a $350 million software scheme, said a top official in the Utah attorney general's office orchestrated an agreement in 2010 to pay $600,000 to someone connected to Reid.

Johnson told The Salt Lake Tribune over the weekend that he believed Reid would intervene in the Federal Trade Commission's investigation into his business.

A spokeswoman for Reid's office, Kristen Orthman, said Monday that the Nevada Democrat "had no knowledge or involvement" in Johnson's case and said the allegations "are nothing more than innuendo and simply not true."

Federal prosecutors allege that Johnson's company sent software to consumers for a supposedly risk-free trial but billed them anyway.

Johnson was arrested at a Phoenix airport in 2011, carrying more than $26,000 in cash and a one-way plane ticket to Costa Rica.

Prosecutors initially charged him with one count of mail fraud. He was set to enter a guilty plea Friday to two additional charges of bank fraud and money laundering as part of an agreement with the government.

But that deal fell apart after Johnson and prosecutors disagreed over the terms. Johnson instead decided to maintain his not guilty plea and the case is set to go to trial.

On Saturday, the Tribune reported that Johnson provided the newspaper with emails, financial statements, photos and a transcript of a recorded meeting with John Swallow, then the state's chief deputy attorney general.

Only one email from Johnson was available on the newspaper's website.

Swallow was elected as Utah Attorney General in November and was sworn into office last week. He has strongly denied the allegations and maintains he only offered to connect Johnson with a lobbying firm.

After the FTC filed a lawsuit against Johnson and nine business associates in December 2010, Johnson said he asked Swallow to return part of the $250,000 he had paid. Johnson said he doesn't know if anyone connected to Reid received it.

Swallow, a Republican, said he told Johnson he would not interfere with the FTC investigation or advocate for Johnson to the U.S. attorney.

"Any suggestion by Mr. Johnson that I have been involved in illegal or inappropriate activity regarding his FTC case or any other matter is false and defamatory," he said.

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