The Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Oak Harbor, Ohio, is one of two facilities owned by FirstEnergy Corp. at the center of the so-called House Bill 6 scandal. The energy company's former CEO and a vice president were indicted on public corruption charges Monday. File Photo by Nuclear Regulatory Commission/Wikimedia Commons
Feb. 12 (UPI) -- The former head of Ohio's public utilities commission and two energy company executives were indicted Monday in connection with a sprawling political corruption scandal, authorities announced.
Former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairman Samuel Randazzo and a pair of FirstEnergy Corp. executives, identified as ex-CEO Charles Jones and Vice President Michael Dowling, were indicted as part of the so-called House Bill 6 scandal, in which Republican state officials were bribed to approve taxpayer-funded bailouts of two nuclear power plants.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said the indictments handed down by a grand jury in Summit County, Ohio, strikes a major blow against criminal efforts to corrupt the political process.
"This indictment is about more than one piece of legislation," Yost said in a statement. "It is about the hostile capture of a significant portion of Ohio's state government by deception, betrayal and dishonesty.
"Shout it from the public square to the boardroom, from Wall Street to Broad and High: Those who perversely seek to turn the government to their own private ends will face the destruction of everything they worked for," he declared.
The indictment charges Randazzo, Jones and Dowling with a combined 27 felony counts, including the first state charges against the former FirstEnergy executives. The charges include counts related to bribery, theft, money laundering and telecommunications fraud, among others.
Both state and federal prosecutors say the trio were part of scheme masterminded in 2018 by former Ohio House of Representatives Speaker Larry Householder to obtain $60 million in bribes in exchange for pushing through House Bill 6, a $1.3 billion bailout for two nuclear power plants in northern Ohio owned by FirstEnergy.
Prosecutors said the accused also helped the plants by defeating a ballot initiative to overturn the bailout legislation. The state officials ultimately put the $60 million into shell companies they controlled, including more than $22 million into a company owned by Randazzo, authorities said.
"These individuals used FirstEnergy to break the law and betray the public's trust," said Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh. "This indictment is another step toward bringing justice for the residents of Summit County and Ohio."
Householder was convicted of racketeering charges in March 2023 and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
FirstEnergy in January 2023 agreed to pay a $3.9 million fine for failing to comply with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rules regarding the reporting of lobbying activities.