In their interview, the two prosecutors said they were limited in what they could share because the investigation is still unfolding. But they confirmed their agents have forwarded evidence to the FBI that raises questions about contributions to the campaigns of both Senators.
Rawlings said the agents began picking up “bread crumbs” that raised questions about Senator Reid’s contacts with representatives of online poker industry.
“As we do our investigation focusing primarily on the state officials, we are sweeping up these bread crumbs and then, [will] combine them to see where they go,” Rawlings said. “We’re not ready to pronounce [the] prosecutions of any federal officials. But I will tell you this. By virtue of somebody being a federal official-- be it an elected or an appointed official, whatever it is, does not give them immunity from state crime.”
Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for the Senate Majority Leader called the statements by the district attorneys “a publicity stunt.”
He said Reid “has never been contacted in regards to this investigation” and said questions about the investigation submitted by ABC News were “nothing but a fever-brained witch hunt.”
A spokesman for Senator Lee said in an email that no one from the prosecutor’s office or from the FBI has contacted the senator about the investigation.
Despite strong public opposition to gambling in the state, Utah briefly became an unlikely foothold for one of the world’s largest online poker companies in late 2009, which used a bank in the city of St. George to process hundreds of millions of dollars in proceeds.
One of the key figures in the bank that handled those transactions, Jeremy Johnson, told ABC News that poker interests had entered the political fray in search of help to prevent a crackdown on the processing of poker proceeds.
Johnson says it was those interests – among others -- that led him to start arranging for what he says would become tens of thousands of dollars in contributions to an array of state and federal political campaigns, including that of Reid.
Today, Johnson remains a controversial figure in Utah, awaiting trial on 86 internet fraud charges alleging he bilked consumers out of millions of dollars.
Because of that case, Johnson is now under a gag order. But in an interview with ABC News conducted before the gag order was imposed, Johnson described his allegations involving Sen. Reid and others.
“There is a kind of gray area in the law whether or not poker is legal and it was an unsettled area to that point and they wanted Harry Reid to get that cleared up,” Johnson said.
Johnson claims he was instructed by online poker figures to hide illegal contributions to the campaigns of Reid and Lee in 2010 by finding “straw donors” who were reimbursed from poker accounts in the bank for money they supposedly contributed.
Reid’s spokesperson, Adam Jentleson, called Johnson, “a desperate individual who’s been indicted on over 80 counts. His allegations are false and the flailings of a desperate man.”
Another Johnson allegation involves a 2010 fundraiser event at the Rio Casino in Las Vegas, where on-line poker industry officials hosted Reid.
Johnson says Reid promised to introduce federal legislation to legalize on-line poker if he was re-elected.