COLUMBUS, Ohio – The office of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has frozen more than $3 million in assets of former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Chairman Sam Randazzo as part of a state civil lawsuit tied to the ongoing federal criminal probe of a Statehouse corruption scheme.
Yost’s office also has sought a court order to appoint a receiver to go after another $3 million in assets Randazzo allegedly had transferred to accounts his attorney’s control immediately after Yost had announced he had a court order to seize up to $8 million in assets in mid-August.
“We have frozen certain assets at Charles Schwabb and Chase Bank,” wrote Bethany McCorkle, communications director for the attorney general’s office in response to an inquiry from The Ohio Star.
Those assets consist of $7,432 from a Chase account frozen seized in early September and a $3 million split between a $2.58 million IRA and $362,000 joint brokerage account at Schwab seized in mid-August.
“We are aware that Randazzo moved $3 million to accounts controlled by his lawyers the week we filed claims against him,” she added. “We’ve asked the judge to appoint a receiver to marshal the assets – a standard procedure in these situations.”
Yost in early August added Randazzo to a September 2020 civil racketeering lawsuit less than two weeks after the U.S. Department of Justice secured a guilty plea from Akron-based electric utility FirstEnergy Corp. to wire fraud and other charges tied to the passage of Ohio House Bill 6 in mid-2019. The bill, rescinded in part earlier this year, sought electric payers statewide to financially bail out two northern Ohio nuclear power plants owned by a now-former subsidiary.
Documents in that deferred prosecution agreement implicate Randazzo having received $4.3 million from FirstEnergy to fashion the legislation and his pledge as PUCO chairman to delay a scheduled 2024 rate case.
Randazzo has denied any role in the scandal and has maintained his innocence. He is not among those indicted to date.
Prosecutors allege the HB legislation became a vehicle through which Ohio Representative Larry Householder sought to regain his former role House Speaker through funneling political contributions and personal bribes to supportive legislators and candidates. The scheme allegedly used a 501(c)(4) political campaign nonprofit called Generation Now and other “dark money” entities in a bid to conceal the source of the $60 million.
Federal investigators in July 2020 – a year after the legislation passed- indicted Householder and four other individuals, including the now-deceased veteran Statehouse lobbyist Neil Clark.
The civil lawsuit is on hold pending completion of the U.S. Justice Department investigation. A trial date has yet to get set for Householder.
Meantime, McCorkle said the request for the appointment of a receiver has been put on hold after attorneys for Randazzo appealed the request.
“We’ve asked the judge to either require Randazzo to post a bond pending the appeal,” she wrote in the email, “or allow us to continue to pursue the receiver appointment or the assets while the appeal is pending.”
She added, “We expect a decision on the bond any day now.”
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Brian R. Ball is a veteran Columbus journalist writing for The Ohio Star and Star News Network. Email news tips to [email protected]
Photo “Sam Randazzo” by Crain’s Cleveland Business. Photo “Dave Yost” by Dave Yost.