Feds say AZ bribery scheme emerged from 'larger' FBI probe

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New federal documents shine light on a suspected bribery scheme involving a former state utility regulator and three others. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) New federal documents shine light on a suspected bribery scheme involving a former state utility regulator and three others. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
George Johnson, left, and lobbyist Jim Norton, right, have been indicted as well. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) George Johnson, left, and lobbyist Jim Norton, right, have been indicted as well. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Gary Pierce is accused of selling his vote to George Johnson for cash and real property. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Gary Pierce is accused of selling his vote to George Johnson for cash and real property. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

The alleged bribery scheme involving a former state utility regulator and three others emerged from "larger and more intensive" FBI investigation that federal prosecutors are trying to keep quiet.

The disclosure of the "larger" investigation was made in court documents filed this week in the criminal cases against former Arizona Commission Chairman Gary Pierce, his wife and congressional staffer Sherry Pierce, lobbyist Jim Norton and the owner of Johnson Utilities George Johnson.

[RELATED: Powerhouse lobbying firm rebrands amid federal indictment]

The documents provide no other details on the FBI probe.

Lawyers for the Pierces are demanding information on the FBI investigation be made available as they prepare for the Oct. 3 trial.

[READ MORE: Trial set in ex-Commissioner Gary Pierce's bribery case]

But U.S. attorneys have so far refused to release those details saying it could carry "serious negative effects on both this case and the other pending investigation."

All four defendants were indicted in May on federal conspiracy, bribery and mail fraud charges. They have all pleaded not guilty.

[ORIGINAL STORY: Ex-AZ Corp. Commissioner, owner of Johnson Utilities indicted on bribery charges]

Johnson is accused of buying off Gary while he was on the commission with cash and real property in exchange for favorable votes.

Last year, Gary confirmed he was questioned by FBI agents who were looking into the 2014 election cycle.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona politics]

At the same time, FBI agents also contacted Pinnacle West, the parent company of Arizona's largest power company, APS.

Federal prosecutors and the defense attorneys involved in this case either declined to comment or did not return phone calls seeking comment.

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Dennis WlechVeteran political reporter Dennis Welch is a well-respected political expert in Arizona.

Dennis Welch
Political Editor

Before making the move to television, Welch wrote and edited for the Arizona Guardian, a highly influential online news site dedicated to Arizona politics and government where he served as owner and editor. During his Guardian days, Welch was a frequent guest on “Politics Unplugged” and has been a regular fixture on the state political landscape since 2005 appearing on numerous radio and television talk shows. “I am thrilled to start working with such a talented and dedicated staff of journalists,” said Welch. “This is a great opportunity to broaden the reach of my political coverage and tell stories that affect Arizona voters and their families.” With more than 13 years of experience under his belt, Welch’s arrival only strengthens 3TV’s commitment to providing first-rate political and government coverage across all platforms. When not covering politics, Welch is an avid runner and fronts a punk rock band that plays frequently throughout the Southwest and California. Welch is a well-respected political expert in Arizona and his addition means 3TV will provide a stronger, more robust political presence in Arizona. He joins 3TV from the Arizona Guardian, a highly influential online news site dedicated to Arizona politics and government where he served as owner and editor. During his Guardian days, Welch was a frequent guest on “Politics Unplugged” and has been a regular fixture on the state political landscape since 2005 appearing on numerous radio and television talk shows. “I am thrilled to start working with such a talented and dedicated staff of journalists,” said Welch. “This is a great opportunity to broaden the reach of my political coverage and tell stories that affect Arizona voters and their families.” With more than 13 years of experience under his belt, Welch’s arrival only strengthens 3TV’s commitment to providing first-rate political and government coverage across all platforms. When not covering politics, Welch is an avid runner and fronts a punk rock band that plays frequently throughout the Southwest and California.

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