Former Ohio House speaker convicted in $60 million bribery scheme

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A former Republican speaker of Ohio’s House of Representatives was convicted by a federal jury Thursday on racketeering conspiracy charges in connection with a $60 million bribery scheme.

Former Speaker Larry Householder and former Ohio Republican Party Chair Mathew Borges, who was also convicted Thursday, could face up to 20 years in prison for orchestrating the scheme to accept bribes in exchange for ensuring the passage of a billion-dollar bailout for a nuclear energy company.

“As presented by the trial team, Larry Householder illegally sold the statehouse, and thus he ultimately betrayed the great people of Ohio he was elected to serve,” said US Attorney Kenneth Parker.

Steven Bradley, an attorney for Householder, expressed disappointment with the verdict.

“We will take some time to discuss and evaluate our legal options moving forward and will most certainly pursue an appeal,” he said. “Larry is looking forward to going home and spending time with his family after what has been an exhausting seven week trial.”

CNN reached out to an attorney for Borges for comment.

The release did not explicitly identify the nuclear energy company involved in the scheme but noted that utility company FirstEnergy Corp. previously agreed to pay a $230 million penalty for “conspiring to bribe public officials and others” as part of a deferred prosecution settlement.

Jennifer Young, a manager for external communications at FirstEnergy Corp., told CNN that “while it would be inappropriate to comment on the verdict, FirstEnergy has taken decisive actions over the past several years to strengthen our leadership team and ensure a culture of strong ethics, integrity and accountability across the company.”

Jeffrey Longstreth, Householder’s longtime campaign and political strategist, and Juan Cespedes, a lobbyist, previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the racketeering conspiracy.

Following the news of Householder’s conviction, Ohio’s Attorney General Dave Yost announced Friday that the state had filed a request to resume its civil racketeering suit against FirstEnergy Corp., which had been paused during the criminal proceedings

“Other wrongdoers in this scandal – especially and including the First Energy executives who funded the corrupt Householder Enterprise – cannot be permitted to escape scot-free,” Yost said in a statement.

The convictions, along with FirstEnergy Corp.’s deferred prosecution agreement and its settlement of multiple civil issues, justified lifting the stay, Yost argued in a filing in Franklin County’s Court of Common Pleas.

“Criminal justice has been had. Civil justice for the State of Ohio should commence,” Yost said in the filing.

The scheme centered on House Bill 6, a $1 billion dollar bailout that saved two nuclear plants operated by FirstEnergy Corp.

In March 2017, FirstEnergy began making quarterly $250,000 payments to Householder’s tax-exempt social welfare account named Generation Now, US attorneys in Ohio’s southern district laid out in their case.

Householder’s team then used that money to support HB 6’s passage and stop a ballot effort to overturn the law, the implementation of which has since been blocked.

Millions of those dollars went to Householder’s bid for speaker, to other state House candidates likely to support him and to his team’s own pockets.

Householder spent over $500,000 of those funds to “pay off his credit card balances, repair his Florida home and settle a business lawsuit,” according to federal prosecutors.

Borges used about $366,000 for his own benefit and used another $15,000 to bribe an Ohio Republican operative for information on the number of signatures collected on the ballot referendum opposing HB 6, the news release said.

Householder and his associates were arrested and charged with racketeering conspiracy in July 2020.

This story has been updated with additional information.