Federal prosecutors accuse FirstEnergy of conspiracy over Bill 6 scandal

CLEVELAND, Ohio – FirstEnergy Corp. agreed to pay a $ 230 million fine for his role in funding the House Bill 6 scandal and bribing state officials, unsealed documents showed Thursday.

Federal attorneys have filed a deferred lawsuit agreement against the company in US District Court in Cincinnati. FirstEnergy is charged with conspiracy to commit honest services fraud involving what authorities have called the biggest corruption scandal in Ohio history.

The deal means the company will pay the fine and cooperate with the federal investigation. The charge will be dropped in three years if Akron’s utility meets its obligations.

Court records allege the company paid bribes to Ohio House President Larry Householder and Samuel Randazzo, the former chairman of the Ohio Public Utilities Commission.

Neither is named, although the document’s descriptions make it clear that Householder and Randazzo are the officials involved in the case. The deal calls for the company to pay $ 115 million within 60 days to the US Treasury.

It is also due $ 115 million to a program the Ohio Development Service Agency manages for low-income utility users.

If the state program “cannot or will not accept the funds, FirstEnergy Corp. will pay the $ 115 million to the US Treasury,” the document said. Prosecutors are also seeking to seize $ 6.4 million from the company through forfeiture proceedings.

Coincidentally, FirstEnergy is hosting its second quarter earnings conference call on Friday morning.

In April, the company announced that it was working with federal prosecutors in the House Bill 6 case. Last year, federal prosecutors accused FirstEnergy of paying more than $ 60 million in bribes. to Householder and four allies to pass the law, which offered a $ 1 billion bailout of two aging nuclear power plants off Lake Erie.

Householder, its strategist Jeffrey Longstreth and lobbyists Neil Clark, Juan Cespedes and Matthew Borges have been charged with racketeering. Cespedes and Longstreth pleaded guilty. Clark died on March 15 from suicide.

Householder and Borges have denied the charges, and they are expected to stand trial next year.

Federal officials said FirstEnergy and an affiliate funneled the $ 60 million through a nonprofit that prosecutors secretly controlled. The money was used to help Householder gain his leadership position and get the bill passed. The Generation Now nonprofit pleaded guilty to racketeering and confiscated $ 1.5 million from federal authorities.

Prosecutors alleged FirstEnergy paid Randazzo a $ 4.3 million bribe through a company he controlled in return for helping the utility pass Bill 6 and others measures.

Randazzo, who resigned from PUCO last November after the FBI raided his Columbus home and news of the $ 4 million payment became public, has yet to be charged with any felony.

But under documents filed in federal court Thursday, the US attorney’s office claimed that in exchange for the money Randazzo, known as “Public Agent B,” “would advance the interests of FirstEnergy Corp.” ┬╗Concerning Bill 6.

A spokesman for Governor Mike DeWine did not immediately respond to a phone call asking for comment on the charges against Randazzo. Attempts to reach Randazzo and his lawyer, Roger Sugarman, have failed.

Householder’s attorney, Mark Marein, could not be reached for comment.

It is not uncommon for companies facing criminal charges to enter into deferred prosecution agreements to avoid criminal charges. Commonwealth Edison Company, an Illinois utility, entered into one in 2020 to settle corruption allegations, agreeing to pay a $ 200 million fine.

Simultaneously, the Justice Department filed a single criminal charge against ComEd, agreeing to dismiss it after three years if the company fully cooperates with its investigation.

Steven Sozio and James Wooley, two Jones Day partners in Cleveland and former organized crime prosecutors, represent FirstEnergy. Sozio declined to comment on the deal.

Emily Glatfelter and Matthew Singer, federal prosecutors investigating House Bill 6, also addressed the FirstEnergy deal. Prosecutors and the FBI are expected to detail the charge at a press conference later this morning.

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