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Update: Sam Randazzo found dead amid bribery indictments

The Power Grab - red with handshake and the Ohio Statehouse - WOSU Public Media and the NPR Network

It’s been four months since WOSU released the last episode of The Power Grab. WOSU explored the aftermath of the House Bill 6 scandal, but a lot has happened since December.

Just as the podcast wrapped up, the U.S. Justice Department charged the state’s former top regulator, Sam Randazzo, with bribery and embezzlement in an 11-count indictment.

Then, in February, state investigators charged Randazzo with 22 counts, including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, theft, money laundering, fraud, tampering with records and bribery.

The indictments went beyond the allegations that FirstEnergy bribed him with $4 million before he became the state’s top utility regulator. Ohio Auditor Dave Yost has been fighting in the courts to confiscate the money from Randazzo.

Investigators say Randazzo used a so-called shell company – Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio – to embezzle $1 million from a non-profit trade association representing industrial electric customers.

His alliance with First Energy went back at least until 2010, and investigators say that he often did the company’s bidding at the expense of his clients.

He pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.

But before the cases could move forward, Randazzo died.

The Franklin County Coroner’s Office confirmed Randazzo died April 9 by hanging.

He was discovered in an industrial building owned by Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio on East Mound Street in Columbus.

That’s the second time someone facing charges connected to the scandal died by suicide. Neil Clark, the lobbyist federal investigators accused of having a pivotal role in the scheme, died in 2021 from a self-inflicted gunshot.

Since the podcast ended, we’ve also learned of new state charges for former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householderhe’s serving 20 years on the federal conviction he is appealing.

And, for the first time, two former First Energy executives are charged in the case with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, bribery, theft, fraud and money laundering. Former CEO Chuck Jones is facing 10 counts. Former senior vice president of external affairs Mike Dowling is facing 12 charges.

They’ve both pleaded not guilty in Summit County where the charges are filed.

To sort through the details, host Renee Fox spoke with Mike Thompson, who hosts WOSU TV’s Columbus on the Record and the politics podcast Snollygoster.