An Ohio grand jury indicted two former executives of the utility company FirstEnergy Corp. for allegedly participating in a $60 million bribery scheme that has already landed former state House Speaker Larry Householder and former state Republican Party Chair Matt Borges behind bars.
Last spring, Householder and Borges were both convicted for their role in a racketeering conspiracy involving tens of millions of dollars in bribes to ensure the passage of a billion-dollar, taxpayer-funded bailout of two FirstEnergy nuclear plants in Ohio.
FirstEnergy paid a $230 million fine and fired some of the company’s executives, but this is the first time anyone from FirstEnergy has faced criminal charges in the corruption probe.
Prosecutors have accused former FirstEnergy CEO Charles “Chuck” Jones and former Vice President Michael Dowling of participating in a “largescale covert scheme to corrupt the Chairman of the Ohio Public Utilities Commission (‘PUCO’), steal millions of dollars of cash from a large publicly traded electric utility, forge a spurious contract to conceal a cash ‘side deal’ in a PUCO ratemaking case, steal millions of dollars from a non-profit trade group representing large industrial energy users, and tamper with government records involving financial public disclosures and disclosures of the identities of paid lobbyists,” according to the indictment.
Former PUCO Chairman Samuel Randazzo was also indicted. A federal grand jury previously indicted Randazzo last year.
“This indictment is about more than one piece of legislation. It is about the hostile capture of a significant portion of Ohio’s state government by deception, betrayal and dishonesty,” said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.
“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.”
Jones’ attorney Carole Rendon, a partner with the law firm BakerHostetler, blasted the “one-sided information” in the indictment and what she called the “false and unfair narrative” around her client and other FirstEnergy executives since the scheme came to light.
“Mr. Jones did not violate the law. He did not bribe anyone. He acted in the best interests of FirstEnergy’s customers as well as its employees and investors, and never betrayed their trust,” Rendon said.
“Most importantly, the facts necessary to understand what actually happened have not yet been made public,” she added, promising that the unspecified information “will set the record straight and restore the excellent reputation that Mr. Jones built over a lifetime of service.”
The Hill has reached out to Dowling and Randazzo for comment.
Updated at 3:31 p.m.