By Mark Wachtler
March 27, 2014. Layton, UT. A local criminal investigation into allegations of bribery, kickbacks, influence peddling and illegal real estate deals has the Attorney General Eric Holder and the US Justice Dept scrambling to protect two US Senators - Harry Reid and Mike Lee. FBI and local prosecutors accuse the DoJ of protecting the incriminated Senators by refusing to allow a Grand Jury to hear evidence and possibly indict them.
Reid, Swallow, Lee - one down, two to go. Image courtesy of the St. George News.
The criminal probe set to take down Reid and Lee has already claimed Utah Attorney General John Swallow who resigned his office last November, less than a year after being elected. And so far, the two powerful US Senators have only dismissed the accusations, insisting the two Utah District Attorneys are playing politics. It’s worth pointing out that while Senators Reid and Lee are each a Democrat and Republican, so are the two District Attorneys - one Democrat, one Republican. That fact would seem to rule out ‘political motivations’ as Senator Reid’s office contends.
The criminal probe
Two weeks ago, ABC News broke the story and broadcast interviews with the two Utah District Attorneys now charged with prosecuting arguably the second most powerful person in the entire United States - US Senate President Harry Reid (D-NV). Also implicated in the criminal probe is US Senator Mike Lee (R-UT). Together with a handful of FBI agents abandoned by their bosses in Washington, the prosecutors are now trying to build a criminal case on the state level, without the cooperation of the Obama administration’s Justice Department.
Troy Rawlings is the Republican District Attorney from Davis County, Utah. Sim Gill is the Democratic District Attorney from Salt Lake County, Utah. Together, they’ve been attempting to prosecute a massive crime ring that involves gambling, briber, kickbacks and influence peddling. The original investigation began in 2012 with accusations against the not-yet-elected UT Attorney General John Swallow. Swallow resigned this past November just after taking office due to the controversy.
The District Attorneys warn that the investigation is still ongoing, so they couldn’t disclose too many details. But they did confirm that the alleged criminal activity centered on gambling. It’s long been known that quiet, soft-spoken Sen. Harry Reid rules over the Las Vegas mobsters with an iron fist. For decades, feared and ruthless gangsters like the Chicago Outfit’s Michael Spilotro have often complained of being shaken down by the Senator and books have even been written detailing Senator Reid’s strong-arm intimidation and alleged extortion of the entire gambling industry in his state of Nevada.
In his book ‘Extortion’, author Peter Schweizer describes the Reid family as the most powerful Mafia family in Nevada, with Harry being the ‘Don’ and his sons acting as the Mafia lieutenants. The book goes on to quote former Reid staffers describing his ruthless extortion carried out against Nevada gangsters and casinos. Schweizer also introduces FBI investigations that identify a powerful Nevada politician as ‘Mr. Cleanface’. Federal agents and media sleuths have always believed Senator Harry Reid is the notoriously corrupt and Mafia-connected ‘Mr. Cleanface’. But they’ve never been able to prove it. Order your own copy of the incredible book 'Extortion' by Peter Schweizer from Amazon - see ad to the right.
Gambling and gangsters in Utah
While Sen. Harry Reid is the undisputed Godfather of legal gambling in America, online gambling site owners now accuse him of trying to muscle in on the illegal online gambling world too. As detailed by the ABC News investigation, in 2009 an online gambling website that brought in hundreds of millions of dollars set up shop in St. George, Utah.
According to the report, the online gambling owners asked their local bank for assistance in bribing state and federal officials to protect them from criminal investigations. With the bank making millions of dollars in profits off the gambling site, one bank employee who spoke to prosecutors and ABC News says the bank agreed to help. Jeremy Johnson, the bank employee, says he arranged for tens of thousands of dollars in donations from the gambling site to targeted officials, including Senators Reid and Lee.
Johnson, the banker, is himself currently under a criminal gag order due to his own criminal activity resulting in 86 separate charges of fraud. He’s accused of defrauding his customers out of millions of dollars. But before his own criminal case imposed a gag order on him, he had already spoken to ABC News. He told them, “There is a kind of gray area in the law whether or not poker is legal and it was an unsettled area to that point and they wanted Harry Reid to get that cleared up.”
Jeremy Johnson explained the criminal bribery scheme by saying that it was his job to find large numbers of regular Americans. He would get them to make large and legal campaign contributions to Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) and their own Utah Senator Mike Lee (R-UT). Johnson’s bank would then reimburse the donors using money from the online casino’s accounts. By using a campaign bundler in the form of Johnson, Reid and Lee knew who the illegal bribes were really coming from.
One condemning piece of evidence against Senate President Harry Reid is a secret law enforcement recording during the sting operation against Utah AG John Swallow. The recording captures the banker Jeremy Johnson talking to the owners of the online gambling operation based in Utah. On the April 30, 2012 recording, they’re heard talking about Senator Reid doing favors for the gangsters, “I said how in the hell did you guys get him to do that? And he says let's just say he got a little something in his retirement fund. And I was like okay, that's how it is."
In Senator Lee’s case, it isn’t only illegal campaign donations from illegal gambling operations in the form or bribery and protection, the Utah Senator is also accused of falsifying a real estate deal. In that instance, Lee’s accused of purchasing a home and then selling it to one of his campaign donors at a fraction of the price he just bought it for.
Sim Gill, one of the two District Attorneys prosecuting this case explained, “We’re just two local prosecutors. But everybody who was supposed to look at this evidence above us has made a decision not to, and by default left it to us to investigate and prosecute at the state level.” The other District Attorney involved in the case, Troy Rawlings agrees saying, “They already made the decision that the Department of Justice is going to run away on this case. That’s done. So I guess unless they change their mind about that for some reason there will be no federal prosecution.”
The two men, aided by a handful of FBI agents who worked the case and have agreed to participate in the prosecution on the state level in Utah, also have a warning for these powerful and corrupt elected officials who believe they’re above the law. “If somebody commits crimes and there's a nexus to the state of Utah and we can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, it doesn't matter who they are,” Rawlings told the news outlet, “Even a US Senator. And no, we're not afraid of that. That's our job.”
The two District Attorneys describe how they’ve spent the last year preparing for this criminal case, collecting evidence that includes over 100,000 bank records, emails and interviews with over 200 witnesses and participants in the crimes. Together with their FBI teammates, they went to the Justice Department and requested a Grand Jury. The Justice Department rejected their request, even with the overwhelming and damning evidence against two powerful US Senators. Or more likely, because of it.
It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration wouldn’t prosecute Senators Reid and Lee. If readers remember, it was only a couple years ago that Eric Holder became one of the only Americans in history to be impeached by the US House of Representatives. Unfortunately for the American people, the job to prosecute Holder and bring him to justice fell to the US Attorney General, none other than Eric Holder. He immediately announced to the nation that the charges were frivolous and he refused to bring charges against himself.
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