Court may freeze ex-Ohio regulator’s $8M assets

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 25, 2023

COLUMBUS (AP) — The Ohio Supreme Court announced Tuesday that it will take up a dispute over the freezing of $8 million in assets belonging to a former top utility regulator caught up in the sweeping Statehouse bribery scheme alleged by federal prosecutors.

At the request of Republican Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, a Franklin County judge froze Sam Randazzo’s assets in August 2021. Yost made the request after Randazzo, the former chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, transferred a home worth $500,000 to his son and sold properties worth a combined $4.8 million.

A three-judge panel reversed that decision in September and unfroze the assets. It is that decision, stayed since December, that justices agreed to revisit.

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Randazzo resigned his job as PUCO chair in November 2020, after FBI agents searched his Columbus home. He has not been charged in conjunction with the House Bill 6 scandal.

FirstEnergy Corp., the Akron-based utility giant regulated by the commission, later admitted to paying a $4.3 million bribe to a person who meets Randazzo’s description. The bribe was part of a scheme allegedly led by former House Speaker Larry Householder to win the speakership, elect allies, pass a $1 billion bailout of two aging FirstEnergy-affiliated nuclear plants and block a referendum on the bill.

Householder and an associate will go on trial next week. Two other associates and a nonprofit used in the scheme have pleaded guilty and await sentencing. A fifth man arrested in the scheme died by suicide in 2021.