CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI announced the arrest of Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder in connection to what is believed to be the largest racketeering conspiracy in the state’s history.
The conspiracy, allegedly led by Householder with help from at least four other associates, was to maintain a $1.5 billion bailout for FirstEnergy Solutions to save two failing nuclear energy plants in Ohio.
In exchange for getting the bailout passed by Ohio voters, approximately $61 million in “dark money” was funneled to Householder’s control between March 2017 and March 2020, according to U.S. Attorney David DeVillers, of the Southern District of Ohio.
DeVillers and FBI Agent Chris Hoffman explained the conspiracy and announced charges during a press conference on Tuesday from Columbus.
“These allegations are bribery, pure and simple,” DeVillers stated.
The “dark money,” as DeVillers put, was used to allegedly “line the pockets” of the defendants for political gain and to further the conspiracy into a larger operation.
Householder was arrested Tuesday morning after the FBI raided his Perry County property.
Hoffman said Householder was very cooperative when he was taken into custody.
The other four associates tied to Householder in the investigation include:
- Jeffrey Longstreth, adviser to Householder
- Matthew Borges, former Ohio Republican Party chairman and consultant
- Neil Clark, Grant Street Consultants
- Juan Cespedes, co-founder of The Oxley Group
Charges, by complaint, include conspiracy to participate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of an enterprise’s affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity
DeVillers said more arrests are possible in the future because investigators can now interview and question more individuals about the case now that it is no longer covert.
“We have no evidence that this touches the governor’s office,” DeVillers added about the investigation into the Republican Speaker of the Ohio House.
Gov. DeWine released a statement about Householder’s arrest:
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost offered this statement condeming Householder:
“Larry Householder sold out the people of Ohio in exchange for power and dirty money. The 81-page sworn affidavit filed today shows plainly he cannot be trusted to act in the public interest, or trusted with public authority. He is entitled to a presumption of innocence regarding the criminality of his acts, but he is entitled to no presumption of continuance in office. He should resign immediately. If he refuses, the House should eject him under Article II, section 6 of the Ohio Constitution.”
At the time of the press conference, no one from FirstEnergy was criminally charged in connection to the case.
However, FirstEnergy said they would cooperate with the investigation:
“This afternoon, FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE: FE) received subpoenas in connection with the investigation surrounding Ohio House Bill 6. We are reviewing the details of the investigation and we intend to fully cooperate.”
Householder previously served as a House member in Ohio between 1997 and 2004 and Speaker from 2001 to 2004 before resigning following allegations stemming from a separate federal investigation for alleged money laundering in 2004.
That case was eventually closed without any charges filed against Householder.
In 2016, Householder won his seat back in the Ohio House and was elected Speaker again in January 2019.
Because of the 2:30 news conference, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine postponed his regularly scheduled 2 p.m. COVID-19 briefing.
Householder’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for early August if he is not indicted earlier.
Return to 19 News for developing details.