Monday, August 18, 2008

Did the Utah Attorney General Succumb to a Payoff?

White-collar crime fighter Sam Antar knows crookedness from the inside, as a reformed crook himself who masterminded the Crazy Eddie stock fraud. Sam now goes around the country at his own expense to lecture law enforcement agencies, and he had the misfortune of including in his itinerary the Attorney General of Utah, long a happy hunting ground for crooks of all stripes.

I say "misfortune" because of the episode detailed by Sam in his blog here. As a Salt Lake Tribune blog put it, Sam is contending that "Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff is little more than an attack dog for Overstock.com's Patrick Byrne."

Yup, my favorite corporate crime poster child has an ally in the Utah attorney general, fueled by an interestingly-timed campaign contribution. Byrne, who likes to portray himself as a champion of the little guy, is the biggest campaign contributor in Utah. He likes to bully the locals, often to disastrous effect -- as when he went berserk at a meeting with Utah pols.

Seems that Byrne doesn't have to throw a tantrum to get Shurtleff's attention. Five thousand bucks will do nicely. Tracy Coenen spells out the incriminating details.

Actually Sam is doing more than throwing around allegations, since his story is backed up by what appears to be taped telephone conversations with suitably shamed members of the Utah AG's office.

Shurtleff is running for reelection in an overwhelmingly Republican state, but this is a Democratic-leaning year, and it will be interesting to see if the people of Utah react to the foul odor emanating from their highest state law enforcement officer.

© 2008 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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