Indicted, powerful former Ohio utilities chairman dead; suicide suspected

(The Center Square) – Ohio’s former chairman of the Public Utilities Commissioner, facing charges in the state’s biggest corruption case, has been found dead.

The body of Sam Randazzo was discovered late Tuesday morning in a building he owned in Columbus. He was 74.

The Franklin County Coronor’s Office said an autopsy is planned and believes his death was by suicide.

Randazzo was facing charges in connection to the state’s House Bill 6 scandal. He had pleaded not guilty to all.

In February, an Ohio grand jury indicted Randazzo and two former FirstEnergy Corp. executives for their roles.

Randazzo controlled two companies – the Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio and IEU-Ohio Administration Co. Both were named in the indictment, with prosecutors saying they were shell companies created to further Randazzo’s criminal activities, the indictment said.

Randazzo’s 22 felony counts included:

• Eight counts of money laundering.

• Six counts of tampering with records.

• Three counts of telecommunications fraud.

• Two counts of aggravated theft.

• One count each of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, grand theft, and bribery.

The billion-dollar bailout of Ohio’s nuclear energy companies from House Bill 6 resulted in the largest corruption scandal in state history. Former House Speaker Larry Householder was sentenced to a maximum of 20 years in federal prison for his involvement. Former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges is also in prison for his involvement.

Householder lost his speakership and was expelled from the chamber in June 2021.

As previously reported by The Center Square, FirstEnergy agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in their investigation. It admitted conspiring with public officials, others and entities to pay millions of dollars to public officials in exchange for specific official action to help FirstEnergy.

Householder and four co-conspirators were charged in 2020. Also charged were Borges, lobbyist Neil Clark, the Oxley Group co-founder Juan Cespedes and strategist John Longstreth.

HB6 created a new Ohio Clean Air Program to support nuclear energy plants and some solar power facilities. Electricity consumers were to fund the program with a surcharge that ran through 2027.

The fee, scheduled to begin Jan. 1, 2021, was stopped by the Ohio Supreme Court in late December 2020. Yost also reached a deal with FirstEnergy to stop what would have been a $120 million windfall for the company this year based on another part of the legislation.

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