Federal officials arrested Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four others Tuesday as part of a $60 million racketeering and bribery investigation that prosecutors describe as one of the largest public corruption cases in Ohio history.
All of the charges are tied to what federal prosecutors describe as a criminal enterprise dedicated to securing a bailout for two nuclear power plants in northern Ohio, which is expected to cost the state’s utility ratepayers $1 billion.
A criminal complaint unsealed Tuesday describes the effort as “Householder’s Enterprise” and states that he and his associates sought to expand their political power, enrich themselves and conceal their criminal conspiracy, reports The Associated Press.
“This is likely the largest bribery, money laundering scheme ever perpetrated against the people of the state of Ohio,” said U.S. Attorney David DeVillers, whose office will lead the prosecution of the case. “This was bribery, plain and simple. This was a quid pro quo. This was pay to play.”
Also charged Tuesday were four lobbyists and Republican operatives:
*Neil Clark, founder of Grant Street Consultants and once called by USA Today “one of the best connected lobbyists in Columbus”;
*Matthew Borges, former Ohio Republican Party chair and consultant;
*Juan Cespedes, co-founder of The Oxley Group in Columbus;
*Jeffrey Longstreth, adviser to Householder;
*Generation Now, a nonprofit that federal prosecutors link to Longstreth and Householder, also faces racketeering charges.
DeVillers said the arrests Tuesday will not end the investigation and that agents will continue to interview potential witnesses and execute search warrants in the coming days and weeks. “We’re not done with this case,” he said. “There are a lot of federal agents knocking on a lot of doors.”
The criminal complaint accuses Householder of creating an enterprise to collect large sums of money for him and others involved in the conspiracy.
“The millions paid into the entity were akin to bags of cash,” the complaint states. “Unlike campaign or PAC contributions, they were not regulated, not reported, not subject to public scrutiny — and the enterprise freely spent the bribe payments to further the enterprise’s political interests and to enrich themselves.”
The arrests are the result of a nearly two-year FBI investigation that included undercover federal agents who met with Householder and Clark, as well as surveillance that allowed investigators to obtain text messages, emails and other communications between those who have been charged.
Householder and the other four men made their initial appearance electronically in federal court early Tuesday afternoon. They were released from custody afterward, with travel restrictions and prohibitions on contact with others involved in the case.
Agents made the arrests of Householder, Borges and Clark on Tuesday morning at their residences. It is unclear where the arrests of Longstreth and Cespedes took place.
According to the criminal complaint, the arrests are the result of a nearly two-year investigation into bribes and money laundering by the FBI.