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Former Ohio utilities panel chair Sam Randazzo, accused in state bribery scheme, has died

Former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio chair Sam Randazzo leaves federal court in Cincinnati accompanied by his wife on Dec. 4, 2023.
Zack Carreon
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WVXU
Former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio chair Sam Randazzo leaves federal court in Cincinnati accompanied by his wife on Dec. 4, 2023.

Former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chair Sam Randazzo, accused of involvement in a more than $60 million bribery scheme involving state lawmakers and energy executives, died by suspected suicide Tuesday morning, according to a spokesperson for the Franklin County Coroner's Office. He was 74.

Randazzo had been a lawyer working with utilities and industrial energy users. He was nominated to head the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in 2019, and resigned from that position in November 2020, after his Columbus home was raided by the FBI.

He was facing federal and state charges for his accused role in the scandal and had been awaiting trials for both. He pleaded not guilty to federal charges in December, and entered a similar plea to state charges in Summit County Common Pleas Court in February, along with former FirstEnergy executives Chuck Jones and Michael Dowling.

Randazzo became PUCO chair three months before House Bill 6 was passed and signed into law in July 2019. Jones and Dowling have been charged with paying him a $4.3 million bribe for work Randazzo did for the utility, including authoring some parts of the legislation.

Republican former Ohio House speaker Larry Householder and ex-Ohio Republican Party chair Matt Borges were found guilty of racketeering charges in a federal court in Cincinnati last year. Householder is serving a 20-year prison sentence while Borges is serving five years. Randazzo was accused in that same court.

Prosecutors have called the bigger case the largest bribery scandal in Ohio's history.

If you or anyone you know is in crisis, the National Suicide Hotline can be reached by dialing 988.

Sarah Donaldson covers government, policy, politics and elections for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. Contact her at sdonaldson@statehousenews.org.
Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.