Ohio AG seizes $8M in assets from former PUCO chairman in ongoing FirstEnergy bribery scandal

Ohio

FILE — This undated file photo provided by the Ohio Governor’s office shows former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, Sam Randazzo. The Ohio Consumers’ Counsel has made public a consulting agreement that resulted in a $4.3 million payment by FirstEnergy Corp. to the energy attorney and lobbyist shortly before he was appointed Ohio’s top utility regulator. The contracts dating back to 2013 released to reporters on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021 show that and previous payments were made to Randazzo’s company, Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio. (AP Photo/Ohio Governor’s office via AP, File)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost obtained a court order to seize up to $8 million in assets from Sam Randazzo, the former chairman of the Public Utility Commission of Ohio (PUCO), due to his ties to FirstEnergy and the ensuing bribery scandal.

Yost asserts that Randazzo has transferred a $500,000 home to his son and sold four other properties worth a combined $4.8 million since February. These actions are what prompted the attorney general to file the motion with the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

“FirstEnergy admitted to bribing Randazzo to the tune of $4.3 million to help construct House Bill 6, and he should be accountable for those actions,” said Yost. “Randazzo is making moves that will make it harder to hold him financially accountable for accepting bribes. As the federal investigation continues, we need to make sure that his assets are available for recovery when his time comes to pay.” 

Randazzo resigned from his position as as chairman of PUCO in November 2020 days after the FBI conducted a search of his residence as a part of an investigation into the House Bill 6 bribery scandal.

Also accused are former Republican Party state chairman Matt Borges; lobbyist Neil Clark, who has since died by suicide; and political operatives Juan Cespedes and Jeffrey Longstreth, both of whom pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy charges.

Yost is seeking to expand the racketeering lawsuit, which has drawn in FirstEnergy and former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, to include two former executives of the energy company — CEO Charles Jones and Senior Vice President Michael Dowling, as well as several others associated with the former PUCO chairman.

The attorney general’s amended lawsuit alleges that Randazzo and the FirstEnergy executives engaged in extortion, money laundering, coercion, intimidation and an attempted coverup.

“If Sam Randazzo is innocent as he claims, we’ll expect that he’ll fully cooperate, and that we’ll be able to locate the funds easily,” said Yost.

FirstEnergy in a deferred prosecution agreement to avoid federal criminal charges said the executives worked with Randazzo to help win passage of the bill that included a $1 billion bailout for two nuclear plants and an annual revenue guarantee for the Akron-based utility’s three Ohio electric companies.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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