Legal experts analyze meeting between Shurtleff, Koerber and Wimmer

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A federal investigation resulted in indictments, but a state investigation did not. There are ongoing questions now on the state's approach to an alleged $100 million Ponzi scheme.

Rick Koerber, a Utah County businessman, faces federal charges for allegedly setting up a $100 million Ponzi scheme, a case that was on the radar screen of state investigative agencies two years ago.

Last week, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff told KSL 5 News a breakfast meeting he had with Koerber around that time, at the request of GOP lawmaker Carl Wimmer, had no influence on a decision by his office not to prosecute. While experts in criminal prosecution say such a meeting is unusual, all three parties to the meeting in question describe it as routine.

"He said, ‘You'll get a fair treatment here.' He goes, 'If you deserve to be punished, you're going to get fairly punished,'" Koerber told KSL of his meeting with Shurtleff.

"The only thing I can tell you is that I facilitated a meeting with them. Mr. Koerber asked if I could set that up," Wimmer said.

Shurtleff told KSL, "I get that all the time, mostly legislators will contact me with a constituent request -- they may be dealing with one of our attorneys in litigation. We've had them in environmental cases, family services cases."

But retired University of Utah law professor John Flynn calls such a meeting generally unwise. "To avoid an appearance of impropriety. It's not just impropriety, but the appearance of impropriety that has to be avoided so the public can maintain trust in their enforcement officials," he said.

Such a meeting doesn't surprise John Baldwin, executive director of the Utah Bar Association. "It doesn't surprise me that meetings go on between people under investigation and politicians. It happens all the time and it's not necessarily a bad thing, but it depends what happens after that. And that's sometimes hard to explain, even if nothing happens," he said.

Still, questions can arise, like who else, including attorneys for both sides, was present? Why at a restaurant rather than state offices? Who paid (in this case Wimmer says he did)? Were notes made? By who? And if not, why not?

"This may have been totally innocent, but the way that you prove that is to take all of these precautions," Flynn said.

Koerber is scheduled to be formally charged in federal court in two weeks.


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