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Ohio ex-GOP leaders convicted of $61 million racketeering conspiracy linked to nuclear plant legislation


FILE – Then-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder sits at the head of a legislative session in Columbus, Ohio, Oct. 30, 2019. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

A federal jury has convicted the former Ohio House speaker and former chair of the Ohio Republican Party for their roles in a racketeering scheme that netted more than $60 million.

Larry Householder, 63, the state’s former GOP House speaker, and former Ohio Republican Party chair Mathew Borges, 50, were accused of using Householder’s advocacy nonprofit organization, Generation Now, as cover for bribes in support of House Bill 6, which provided a $1.5 billion bailout to two aging nuclear energy plants in Northern Ohio. Ohio energy utility FirstEnergy Corp. poured over $60 million into the nonprofit, which prosecutors say was created specifically for the corrupt scheme.

The now-disgraced GOP leaders also used the funds as their own personal piggy bank.

“Team Householder spent millions of the company’s dollars to support Householder’s political bid to become Speaker, to support House candidates they believed would back Householder, and for their own personal benefit,” the Justice Department said.

Householder and Borges were convicted Thursday, the DOJ announced in a press release. Both men face up to 20 years behind bars and potential financial penalties.

According to prosecutors, Generation Now took in over $60 million in bribes to “corruptly ensure that HB 6 went into effect by defeating a ballot initiative to overturn the legislation,” the DOJ said. That money was funneled to the defendants, who apparently used it for their own personal purposes.

“The United States detailed that Householder spent more than half a million dollars of the dark money to pay off his credit card balances, repair his Florida home and settle a business lawsuit,” the DOJ said.

For his part, Borges used approximately $366,000 for his personal benefit.

Generation Now pleaded guilty in February 2021 to participating in the conspiracy.

“The government proved beyond a reasonable doubt at trial that Householder and his enterprise conspired to violate the racketeering statute through honest services wire fraud, receipt of millions of dollars in bribes and money laundering,” the DOJ’s press release said.

Evidence and testimony also revealed that Borges used $25,000 to bribe an Ohio Republican operative to try to save the bailout bill.

“Borges gave the man a $15,000 check in exchange for information on the number of signatures collected on the anti-House Bill 6 ballot referendum,” the press release said.

Jeffrey Longstreth, Householder’s longtime campaign and political strategist, and lobbyist Juan Cespedes were also charged in the scheme. They both pleaded guilty in October 2020; court filings indicate those sentences are still pending.

A fifth defendant, lobbyist Neil Clark, died by suicide in March 2021.

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In July 2021, FirstEnergy Corp. agreed to pay a $230 million penalty for its role in the conspiracy to bribe public officials and others as part of a deferred prosecution agreement.

Householder and his co-conspirators were indicted in July 2020 by then-U.S. Attorney David M. DeVillers, a Donald Trump appointee who took office in 2019. Householder was removed from the House speaker position in July 2020, although he easily won reelection to his state House seat in November of that year.

He was ultimately expelled from the state House of Representatives in June 2021.

At the time, DeVillers said the plot was “likely the largest bribery scheme ever perpetrated against the state of Ohio.”

“Public corruption should never be tolerated by any party in Ohio,” Ohio GOP spokesman Dan Luscheck told Law&Crime in an email on Friday. “Hopefully, this verdict serves as a warning to others who may be considering breaking the public’s trust.”

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