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“They deserve it” — Whistleblower welcomes new corruption charges

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The whistleblower in the largest corruption scandal in Ohio history is welcoming newly announced criminal charges against three of the key players accused of selling out the Statehouse.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced during a press conference Monday that three people have been charged by the state in connection with the House Bill 6 scandal.

RELATED: 2 former FirstEnergy executives and ex-utility regulator indicted in HB6 corruption scandal

Former FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Jones, former FirstEnergy Senior Vice President Michael Dowling, and former Ohio Public Utilities Commission Chairman Sam Randazzo were indicted on “27 counts of The combined charge of criminal violations, including participation in corrupt activity, all related to their joint activity. company to hijack Ohio’s regulatory structure for the benefit of First Energy Corporation and itself.

“This indictment involves more than one piece of legislation,” Yost said. “This is the hostile capture of a significant portion of Ohio state government through deception, treason and dishonesty.”

Fast facts

In 2019, former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder accepted a $61 million bribe in exchange for legislation granting FirstEnergy a billion-dollar bailout, named HB 6, all at taxpayer expense.

The scheme was exposed in three main ways: two separate whistleblowers and a wiretap.

Fast forward to March 2023, a jury found that Householder and former GOP leader Matt Borges participated, beyond a reasonable doubt, in the largest public corruption case in state history , a racketeering scheme that left four men guilty and another dead by suicide.

In late June of that year, federal judge Timothy Black sentenced Householder to 20 years in prison. Borges was sentenced to 5 years. The two surviving defendants reached a plea deal early, thereby helping the FBI, and are still awaiting sentencing. The federal government requests a period of 0 to 6 months for them.

Until 2024, only federal indictments had been issued.

This corruption scandal was widely covered by News 5which followed the legislation to the Statehouse, the arrests, trial, conviction and sentencing of Householder and former GOP leader Matt Borges.

RELATED: The former speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for the state’s largest corruption scheme.

HB 6 primarily benefited FirstEnergy’s struggling nuclear power plants, but those provisions were later repealed. However, some aspects of the bill are still in force.

Ohio Valley Electric Corporation (OVEC) received financial assistance for this project. He expanded the OVEC power plant bailout and forced Ohioans to pay for two 1950s-era coal plants, one in the southern part of the state and one in Indiana. The main beneficiaries are American Electric Power Company (AEP), Duke Energy and AES Ohio.

RELATED: Following legal scandal, Ohio utility companies attempt to raise costs again

Although this scandal became public years ago, state ethics laws have not changed to prevent such projects from happening.

There are numerous bipartisan efforts to fully repeal HB 6 and propose ethics laws. None are going anywhere, it seems.

NOW

Yost was joined by Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh and Sheriff Kandy Fatheree for the announcement Monday.

“The crimes committed by these individuals have impacted the wallets of every hard-working Ohioan and further shaken our trust in the institutions and organizations we rely on to represent us and provide us with essential services,” Fatheree said. “Today we take another important step to ensure that justice is served for these crimes and that those who abused the public trust are held accountable.”

FirstEnergy, as a company, has previously admitted to corrupting Ohio officials, including a $4.3 million bribe to Randazzo. Jones and Dowling allegedly paid him this sum.

The two former leaders each face a dozen charges, including involvement in corruption, bribery and fraud.

Click here to read each of their specific fees.

Randazzo was previously charged with federal racketeering, to which he pleaded not guilty in December. The state added 22 charges, including engaging in a pattern of corrupt, bribery and money laundering activities.

RELATED: Former PUCO Chairman Pleads Not Guilty for Alleged Role in FirstEnergy Scandal

Also named in the filing are the Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio and the IEU-Ohio Administration Company. Randazzo controlled each of them and they were allegedly shell companies created to promote his criminal activities.

And while Monday probably wasn’t the best day for Randazzo, Jones and Dowling, it was a great day for whistleblower Tyler Fehrman.

Fehrman is the Republican agent turned FBI informant credited with exposing this massive public corruption at the Statehouse – and he applauds the AG and Summit County for these arrests.

“These guys deserve to have everything taken away from them,” Fehrman said. “They deserve it.”

Borges tried to bribe Fehrman and threatened to take part in the scandal – even telling him at one point that if he snitch, Borges would “blow up his house.”

Too bad for Borges, but this conversation was actually organized and recorded by the federal government. Instead of remaining silent, Fehrman testified, wowing jurors — as News 5 exclusively reports — and helping deliver guilty verdicts in the federal trial.

RELATED: Parliamentary Bulletin’s lead juror explains why trial ‘left a bitter taste’ in his mouth

Click here to read more about the whistleblower’s “four years of hell” in News 5’s 2023 interview with him.

Fehrman ended up having to change careers and flee the state for fear of reprisals — and because he was ostracized — but he can now see the scheme continue to unravel.

“You can hide your actions a little bit in the dark,” he said. “But the sun always rises and the truth always comes out.”

The sun rises on other people who helped turn his life upside down.

“Any time one of these guys is indicted, especially the people who allowed Matt and Larry to have the opportunity to do what they did to me – to see them get in trouble, it’s extremely vindictive,” he said.

He agreed with Yost’s statement that there can be no justice without holding check writers and masterminds accountable.

Mike Benza, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University, says the charges will be difficult to fight. When asked what the best possible scenario was for them, other than pleading guilty, he said the best would be to argue that it was politics as usual.

“It looks like the focus on defense will be a lot like Householder and Borges: That’s just how things are done in Columbus,” Benza said. “It’s just kind of a normal public policy hustle and it may not be pretty and you may not like it, but it’s reality and it doesn’t amount to corruption.”

Obviously this wasn’t a winning argument in federal court, but they could try it in state.

Part of the reason this may have worked so poorly in Black’s courtroom is that Householder went against the advice of the vast majority of criminal defense attorneys and decided to testify for his defense.

The now-convicted criminal fell into the FBI’s trap and, embarrassingly, lied on the stand. He didn’t seem to understand that federal authorities had recordings of him admitting to the crimes. His face grew redder and redder as Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Glatfelter played the tapes.

It didn’t help either: he used the bribe money to put himself and his allies in power, demolishing and threatening everyone in his path, as well as paying off his credit card debt and renovating her house in Florida.

That being said, the future does not look bright for any of the accused.

“What do you think this means for Randazzo, Jones and Dowling?” » Statehouse reporter Morgan Trau asked Benza.

“Randazzo will probably consider dying in prison,” Benza responded. “Jones and Dowling are probably in the same boat.”

Ferhman is hoping for more indictments, including high-profile names.

“Time is running out for the other people involved,” Fehrman said.

He named Gov. Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted as persons of interest to him.

DeWine complied with a subpoena he received in a civil case related to the scandal, he said.

RELATED: Ohio Governor Mike DeWine responds to subpoena in civil case involving corruption scandal, until AG Yost arrests him

FirstEnergy investors are suing for being financially impacted by the scandal. They have subpoenaed documents from DeWine and are planning a sworn deposition from Husted.

In a one-on-one interview with the governor, Trau was asked if he was nervous about the scandal or, more importantly, if he was worried about Husted. DeWine said no to both.

Randazzo has been named as the mastermind behind HB 6, as he is one of its creators – according to the federal government. But it was thanks to DeWine that he came to power.

Do you regret appointing Sam Randazzo to the PUCO?,” Trau asked.

“Oh, look, if I knew what I know now, if I knew, I certainly wouldn’t have appointed Sam Randazzo to this position,” DeWine responded.

DeWine said he was the best person for the job, not knowing that Randazzo was FirstEnergy’s hand-picked man.

“Although our office has not been made aware of the indictment and has not yet reviewed it, the indictment alleges very serious acts,” the spokesperson said Monday afternoon. -DeWine spokesperson Dan Tierney. “Our office has full confidence in the criminal justice system to adjudicate these serious allegations in an appropriate manner.”

Follow WEWS State reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter And Facebook.

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