Key figure in Utah political scandal appeals conviction

DENVER (AP) — A onetime helicopter-flying millionaire who helped launch a pay-to-play scandal involving two former Utah attorneys general will ask a federal appeals court Thursday to reverse his conviction for lying to banks to keep his online business afloat.

Jeremy Johnson is taking his long-running fraud case to the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after he was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison last year.

Johnson was once a colorful figure in Utah known as political donor and wealthy businessman who flew his personal helicopter to Haiti for earthquake relief. In 2011, he was arrested at a Phoenix airport carrying more than $26,000 in cash and a one-way plane ticket to Costa Rica.

He later claimed state Attorney General John Swallow arranged to pay then-U.S. Sen. Harry Reid to toss the investigation into Johnson’s business after the top lawman took gifts and luxury vacations from Johnson and others.

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Reid denied any connection to the allegations and was never charged.

Swallow later resigned amid multiple state and federal influence-peddling investigations that included allegations against his predecessor, Mark Shurtleff.

Shurtleff and Swallow were both charged in wide-ranging pay-to-play cases. Shurtleff’s case was later dropped, and Swallow was acquitted. Both men denied any wrongdoing.

Johnson, to bolster his early allegations against Swallow, offered up a secret recording he made of their meeting at a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop. He later refused to testify in Swallow’s trial, invoking his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself.

Johnson’s fraud conviction capped a five-year buildup that included mountains of evidence, allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, a rejected plea deal and his claims that the government was eavesdropping on his conversations with his lawyers.

Johnson’s attorneys argue in his appeal that the…

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