(Columbus) Two former top executives of FirstEnergy Corp. were charged Monday with participating in a US$60 million (CAN$80.6 million) corruption scheme in Ohio linked to the state’s legislative bailout of two nuclear power plants, which has already resulted in a 20-year sentence prison sentence for a former speaker at the state Capitol.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced Monday during an online press conference that former FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Jones and former Senior Vice President Michael Dowling were charged in connection with their role in this affair of massive corruption. Both men were fired in October 2020 for violating company policies and code of conduct.
After a Summit County grand jury filed charges against Messrs. Jones and Dowling on Friday, Mr. Yost said, with both men promising to turn themselves in to the Summit County Jail on Monday. They did not keep that promise, and Mr. Yost said he anticipated they would be arrested later Monday.
Sam Randazzo, former chairman of the Ohio Public Utilities Commission, already faces 11 counts centered on allegations that he accepted bribes from Akron-based FirstEnergy, in exchange for regulatory favors.
He resigned in November 2020, after FBI agents searched his Columbus home and FirstEnergy revealed in security filings that it had paid him US$4.3 million (US$5.7 million). CAN) for his future assistance to the commission, a month before Republican Gov. Mike DeWine named him Ohio’s top utility regulator.
The State has charged Chuck Jones, Michael Dowling and Sam Randazzo with a combined total of 27 criminal counts in connection with this massive corruption case, including bribery, theft, engaging in corrupt activity , document falsification and money laundering.
“This indictment concerns more than one legislative text,” prosecutor Yost said Monday. This is the hostile capture of a significant portion of Ohio state government through deception, treason, and dishonesty. »
The largest corruption case in Ohio history
The long-awaited indictments mark the latest development in what has been called the largest corruption case in Ohio history.
Former Ohio Capitol Speaker Larry Householder was sentenced in June to 20 years in prison for his role in orchestrating the scheme, and lobbyist Matt Borges, former chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, was sentenced to five years.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cincinnati indicted three other people on racketeering charges in July 2020. Lobbyist Juan Cespedes and Jeffrey Longstreth, one of Householder’s top political strategists, pleaded guilty in October 2020 and are awaiting sentencing. The third person arrested, state lobbyist Neil Clark, pleaded not guilty before committing suicide in March 2021.
The shadowy financial group used to funnel FirstEnergy’s money, Generation Now, also pleaded guilty to a racketeering charge in February 2021.
All were accused of using the $60 million in cash secretly funded by FirstEnergy to elect Householder’s chosen Republican candidates to the House in 2018, then to help him be elected speaker on Capitol Hill in January 2019. money was then used to secure the adoption of a biased energy law and to carry out what authorities described as a US$38 million (C$51 million) dirty tricks campaign to prevent a referendum on repeal is triggered.
In July 2021, Dave Yost asked a Columbus judge to add Chuck Jones, Michael Dowling and Sam Randazzo to a lawsuit his office filed against FirstEnergy.
An 81-page FBI criminal complaint from July 2020 details how executives at Akron-based FirstEnergy interacted with Householder and others charged in the scheme, including 84 telephone contacts between Mr. Jones and the former President of the Chamber and 14 telephone contacts between MM. Dowling and Householder.
FirstEnergy admitted its role in the bribery scheme as part of a July 2021 deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. The company agreed to pay $230 million in fines and complete a long list of reforms, within three years, to avoid criminal prosecution for federal conspiracy.
A statement of facts signed by current CEO and President of FirstEnergy, Steven Strah, details the involvement of Messrs. Jones, Dowling, Randazzo and others in the bribery scheme. Sam Randazzo’s lawyers called the claims in the document mere “hearsay” intended to keep the energy giant out of legal hot water.