SALT LAKE CITY — Former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff partied at an "underground" nightclub in New York City around his 55th birthday with friends who had questionable business dealings and who weren't afraid to drop his name, according to newly unsealed search warrants.
A witness, James Bramlette, told investigators Shurtleff and his friend Sovatphone Ouk were hanging out in August 2012 with Edward B. Johnson, a wealthy contributor to Shurtleff's political campaigns whose company allegedly defrauded consumers of millions of dollars. Bramlette and Ouk were once in business together.
During a lunch meeting, Bramlette said Shurtleff and Ouk talked about going to clubs with Johnson who was "dropping $100,000 in bottle service" every night and that there were "women all over the tables," according to the warrant.
Johnson donated $4,800 to Shurtleff's failed U.S. Senate campaign, and his company, The Tax Club, gave $40,000 to his 2008 attorney general campaign. The Federal Trade Commission settled its 2013 case against The Tax Club last summer, ordering it to give up $15 million in assets and banning it from selling business coaching services and work-at-home opportunities.
The Tax Club also gave $25,000 to Shurtleff's handpicked successor, John Swallow, for his 2012 attorney general campaign.
Bramlette said Shurtleff and Ouk talked about going to clubs with Johnson who was 'dropping $100,000 in bottle service' every night and that there were 'women all over the tables.'
It is unclear how the warrants unsealed last week figure into the public corruption charges against Shurleff and Swallow. Shurtleff faces nine felonies and Swallow 11 felonies, including illegally accepting gifts and bribery. The warrant seeks Facebook exchanges between Shurtleff and Ouk.
Shurtleff's attorney, Richard Van Wagoner, hadn't seen the warrants and had no immediate comment Tuesday.
The warrant describes how Shurtleff intervened in Ouk's business and personal affairs. He owns Global Marketing Alliance, Inc., in Salt Lake City, the warrant says.
Ouk told investigators that Tim Lawson, Shurtleff's self-described "fixer," introduced him to Shurtleff for the "purpose of soliciting campaign donations," according to the warrant. Ouk gave to Shurtleff's runs for attorney general and Senate. He also let Shurtleff use a building he owns for the 2009 Senate campaign.
That in-kind donation does not appear on Federal Election Commission records, the warrant says.
Lawson faces criminal charges of his own, including retaliating against witnesses, witness tampering, obstructing justice and bribery.
According to the warrant, Ouk — who referred to him and Shurtleff as buddies — intended to start a business like The Tax Club in Utah and Shurtleff was going to "put his stamp of approval on it like a Gephardt approval."
Ouk told investigators that in 2010 that Shurtleff participated in a promotional video for 8zone, a health and weight loss supplements company that Ouk owned. The warrant includes an image of Shurtleff's face and name from the video.
In July 2012, Shurtleff sent an email asking Zions Bank President Scott Anderson for a "personal favor" for a "close friend of mine." Shurtleff then goes on to explain that Ouk had been denied a home loan modification despite previously being in good standing with the bank. Shurtleff said in the email that Ouk was having credit management issues due to a divorce that took 4 ½ years to settle, according to the affidavit.
"He is one of the most honest businessman I have ever known and trust his motives, intent and ability to succeed," the email said.
According to the warrant, Ouk has a history of using Shurtleff in an attempt to influence police.
The warrant describes that appliances went missing from the Ouks' home that was to be sold with the house as part of the divorce settlement last June. Police deemed it a civil matter and declined to seek charges against Ouk's ex-wife.
Shurtleff contacted the Unified police officer's sergeant and said, "Do you know who I am?" the warrant says. The sergeant replied he knew who Shurtleff was, that he didn't care and that no charges were going to be filed.
Ouk said Shurtleff has recently worked on his divorce case and he trades business advice for the legal work, the warrant states. Ouk also allows Shurtleff space in his building since he left the attorney general's office because "he has no other place to go."
The warrant also describes a November 2012 email exchange between Swallow and Johnson, The Tax Club owner.
Johnson tells Swallow that he wants to work on his bio for future endeavors. "I would want a focus dealing with small business and economic growth. Just a committee head or something like that," Johnson wrote.
Swallow, according the warrant, replies, "I'd like to put together some type of business committee as well. So let's chat."