Federal authorities will hold a press conference Thursday to make a “public corruption announcement.”
The FBI and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio scheduled a news conference for 11:30 a.m. Thursday in Cincinnati. Officials “will announce court filings related to a conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud,” according to the press release.
The development comes a year and a day after former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four others were arrested in connection with the state’s largest bribery scheme.
Householder and his allies were accused of spending nearly $61 million to help Householder regain control of the House, pass a $1.3 billion bailout for two FirstEnergy Solutions-owned nuclear plants and defend that law – House Bill 6 – against a ballot initiative to block it.
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In April, Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. disclosed that it was in talks with federal prosecutors for a deferred prosecution agreement.
Federal investigators claim FirstEnergy and its affiliated companies donated most of the money that was funneled through dark money groups to fuel Householder’s enterprise. FirstEnergy was listed as Company A in an 80-page criminal complaint signed by FBI Special Agent Blane Wetzel and released in July 2020.
Since then, there’s been little news on the case from federal prosecutors.
House Bill 6, signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine in July 2019, would have charged Ohioans a fee on their electric bills to keep the two nuclear plants open. The law also guaranteed profits for FirstEnergy and continued subsidies for the Ohio Valley Electric Corp.’s coal plants, one of which is in Indiana.
In the year since the arrests, Ohio lawmakers have dismantled some of those fees.
FirstEnergy and its former subsidiary, now called Energy Harbor, have said they are cooperating with federal investigators.
In October 2020, FirstEnergy fired its chief executive Chuck Jones and senior vice presidents Michael Dowling and Dennis Chack over a $4.3 million payment to future Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairman Sam Randazzo. Randazzo resigned shortly after the FBI searched his home.
FirstEnergy has also terminated its lobbyists and other key staff in the wake of the case becoming public.
Householder and former Ohio Republican Party chairman Matt Borges have pleaded not guilty to racketeering charges in U.S. District Court. Lobbyist Juan Cespedes and political strategist Jeff Longstreth signed guilty pleas in October. Lobbyist Neil Clark, who pleaded not guilty, died by suicide in March near his home in Florida.
FirstEnergy distributes electricity to 6 million customers and employs 12,000. It owns 10 electric companies that distribute power across five states. It is listed at number 294 on the Fortune 500 list in 2020.
This story is developing and will be updated.
Jessie Balmert and Laura Bischoff are reporters for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.