Reactions to the arrests of two former Utah Attorney Generals for white collar crimes have been extremely diverse. Utah House Speaker Becky Lockheart considered the events illustrative of “…a positive thing that we hold people accountable for their actions.” However current Governor Gary Herbert disagreed. He expressed that the charges against the pair for public corruption were a “black eye” and marked a “sad day” for the state. Utah House Majority Leader Brad Dee seemed to synthesize elements of both the Speaker’s and the Governor’s remarks in stating “No one takes any joy in these arrests today, or these charges. But one thing I take solace in is the fact the system works.”
From outside of the FBI’s Salt Lake City office, Salt Lake County DA, Sam Gill, indicated that more charges could have been filed, but the decision was made to go-ahead with what had already been uncovered through an investigation that analyzed 5 years of dealings and behavior. All-in-all, the two former Attorney Generals are charged with at least 23 felonies or misdemeanors between them. Both Swallow and Shurtleff maintain their innocence. They have correctly emphasized the fact that under the United States Constitution both are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Furthermore, since this is a criminal matter, the prosecutor must prove every element of each crime beyond a reasonable doubt before a guilty verdict can be properly rendered.
While media personalities and talking heads are sure to bloviate regarding the political implications of these arrests, exploring political considerations is not the goal of this post. Rather, let us use these high-profile arrests to examine a number of white collar crimes in Utah.
What Charges are the Former Attorney Generals Facing?
Although some of the alleged crimes overlap, most of them stem from unique and allegedly unlawful acts. The crimes charged include a broad array of white collar crimes. White collar crimes are typically considered to be crimes that seek to profit by fraud or misrepresentation. The former attorney generals have been charged with committing white collar felonies and misdemeanors including:
- Pattern of unlawful activity – Also known as racketeering, a pattern of unlawful activity is classified as a second-degree felony by Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-160. Prohibitions in the statute include profiting from a pattern of fraud or other unlawful actions when engaged in an enterprise.
- Giving false or inconsistent statements – making false or inconsistent statements is typically a class B misdemeanor in Utah. One may not mislead a public servant while performing their duties or make statements under oath that the individual does not believe to be true.
- Evidence tampering – Evidence tampering is generally a class A misdemeanor however it can be considered a third-degree felony if the tampering was in connection to an official proceeding or investigation. One may not alter, destroy, or conceal evidence or present evidence that the individual knows to be false.
- Obstruction of justice – Obstruction of justice can be charged in a broad array of circumstances and depending on the conduct may be classified as harshly as a capital felony. Obstruction of justice is defined in 76-8-306 of Utah’s criminal code.
- Misuse of public money – If it can be proven that a public officer profited from public funds they face not only restitution and felony penalties, but also, as per Utah Code 76-8-404, is disqualified from holding public office.
- Falsifying or altering government records – If the offense does not rise to the level of fraud but the individual knowingly makes, alters, or presents information that they know to be false they may have committed a class B misdemeanor. Likewise, one who conceals or destroys government records may have violated 76-8-511 of the Utah Criminal Code.
- Failure to disclose a conflict of interest – The relevant provision of Utah’s Public Officers’ and Employees’ Ethics Act reads “No public officer or public employee shall have personal investments in any business entity which will create a substantial conflict between his private interests and his public duties.”
- Illegally accepting gifts or loans — The Utah Public Officers’ and Employees’ Ethics Act also provides guidance for when accepting a gift, a loan, or other compensation would be prohibited. Prohibited acts include accepting a loan that is “substantially lower than the commercial rate”, receiving compensation for private services at a rate that substantially exceeds their fair market value, or accept or seek a gift that create improper and undue influence regarding the impartial discharge of that individual’s official duties.
- Receiving or soliciting bribes by a public official – This crime can be charged as a 3rd degree felony when the bribe in controversy is $1,000 or less. If the amount of the bribe of benefit exceeds $1,000, however, a second degree felony can be charged.
- Witness tampering – As per Utah Code 76-8-508, one may not cause a witness to testify falsely, withhold relevant information, or elude a legal summons or subpoena. Crimes defined in this section are all considered third-degree felonies.
While there are additional charges pending, the foregoing provides a representative sample of the types of acts that are considered to be white collar crimes in Utah.
Put our White Collar Crimes Defense Experience to Work for You
If you are facing state or federal prosecution for alleged white collar crimes, the penalties can be extremely harsh. For more than 15 years we have protected the freedom and reputation of Utahans. To schedule your free and confidential legal consultation contact Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer Darwin Overson by calling (801) 758-2287 or contact us online.