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EXCLUSIVE: FBI blocked in corruption probe involving Sens. Reid, Lee
Agents quietly working with Utah prosecutors to make case in DOJ absence
Question of the Day
“Under the status quo, Internet poker is played by millions of Americans every day in an essentially unregulated environment,” Mr. Reid said in December 2010. “The legislation I am working on would get our collective heads out of the sand and create a strict regulatory environment to protect U.S. consumers, prevent underage gambling and respect the decisions of states that don’t allow gambling.”
Mr. Reid’s spokesman said his boss actually began reconsidering that position in late 2009, well before the fundraiser.
“Sen. Reid has always opposed broad-based online gaming, in part because of concerns that it could not be regulated. Since the issue first arose nearly a decade ago, new regulations and new technologies have been developed, including technologies that would enable sites to block minors. Due to these and other developments, Sen. Reid became convinced over time that states should be allowed to decide for themselves whether to allow online poker,” Mr. Jentleson said.
Mr. Johnson’s credibility is certain to come under attack from anyone he levels accusations against.
Federal prosecutors secured a federal indictment accusing the St. George, Utah, businessman of 86 criminal charges accusing him and other executives of his former financial firm of bilking tens of thousands of consumers out of millions of dollars.
A plea deal between him and the government fell through before the charges were filed, and the U.S. attorney’s office subsequently secured a gag order from a federal judge prohibiting Mr. Johnson from talking to the media.
Despite the accusations portraying Mr. Johnson as a swindler, FBI and state investigators have unearthed some early information that would substantiate some aspects of his claims against state and federal officials.
They include canceled checks of some of the payments Mr. Johnson purportedly made to third parties other than Mr. Reid, other bank records and even a photo of the fundraiser with Mr. Reid, officials said.
The questions in the broad-ranging state probe that surround Mr. Lee involve real estate transactions in which the Republican bought a home for $1.1 million in Utah in 2008 when he was still a private lawyer and then sold it for $720,000 after becoming a senator, leaving his mortgage bank, J.P. Morgan, to absorb a significant loss.
Investigators want to know whether Mr. Lee accurately described his personal finances in conjunction with the mortgage transactions.
Investigators have gathered information that Mr. Lee sold the home in a short sale in 2011 to a campaign contributor and federal contractor. As part of the short sale, Mr. Lee forfeited his down payment and left the rest of the loss to his bank, then immediately turned around and rented another property from the same donor for just more than $2,000 a month.
A spokesman for Mr. Lee confirmed the house transactions but said the senator accurately reported all of his finances and all the transactions were legal and proper.
“The purchase of the house was completely aboveboard so there was little to consider about appearances,” spokesman Brian Phillips said, adding that Mr. Lee at the time of the house transaction didn’t even know the buyer was a federal contractor.
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