Feds in Cincinnati to make ‘public corruption announcement’ later this morning

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Federal authorities have scheduled a news conference later this morning in Cincinnati, where they will announce a public corruption-related development.

The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio this morning announced an 11:30 a.m. news conference at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cincinnati. Acting U.S. Attorney Vipal J. Patel and Chris Hoffman, special agent in charge for the FBI’s Cincinnati field office, will be there.

The announcement, which came in a written news release, was vague, only saying the government “will announce court filings related to a conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud.” But it comes almost exactly a year after the FBI arrested then-House Speaker Larry Householder and four others on federal bribery charges related to the passage of House Bill 6, the nuclear bailout bill.

Prosecutors said Householder and the others received $61 million in bribes, in the form of political spending, from FirstEnergy and its affiliates in exchange for their help passing HB6, legislation signed by Gov. Mike DeWine in July 2019 that was to send $1 billion to two Ohio nuclear plants owned by a former FirstEnergy subsidiary. FirstEnergy hasn’t been charged or explicitly identified in the case, but court filings make clear prosecutors think the Akron-based company funded the bribery scheme.

There have been no major legal developments in the case since February, when Generation Now, a pro-Householder political nonprofit that prosecutors said was used to funnel the bribes, pleaded guilty to a racketeering charge.

Householder and another co-defendant, Matt Borges, have pleaded not guilty and denied wrongdoing. The case has bogged down as defense attorneys review extensive evidence collected by the government. No trial date has been set.

Jeff Longstreth, the former top political aide to Householder who signed Generation Now’s guilty plea, himself pleaded guilty to a racketeering charge in late October, as did Juan Cespedes, a lobbyist for Energy Harbor, the former FirstEnergy subsidiary owns the nuclear plants’ owner.

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