FBI agents search home of chairman of agency that oversees Ohio’s energy industry

FBI agents search home of chairman of agency that oversees Ohio’s energy industry
FBI agents were seen Monday morning outside 645 S. Grant Ave. in Columbus, which is owned by PUCO chairman Sam Randazzo. (Source: Cincinnati Enquirer/Jesse Balmert)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (FOX19) - FBI agents searched a Columbus home Monday that is owned by the chairman of Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, which oversees the state’s energy industry.

“FBI agents are conducting court-authorized law-enforcement activity in that area related to a sealed federal search warrant. Due to this matter being sealed, no further details can be released at this time," FBI spokesman Todd Lindgren tells FOX19 NOW.

There were no arrests and none are planned at this time, Lindgren said.

PUCO Chairman Sam Randazzo could not be immediately reached for comment.

Randazzo was appointed to the agency and designated chairman by Gov. Mike DeWine last year, according to his biography on the PUCO’s website.

“We are aware of the search warrant and will monitor this as it progresses, but we have no further comment at this time,” Dan Tierney, press secretary for the governor’s office, said.

Randazzo is an attorney who began his career as a member of the PUCO’s technical staff. He left and was appointed to act as an assistant attorney general for the State of Ohio and assigned to the PUCO section.

He then entered private practice where he focused on energy, communications and utility law.

Randazzo retired from the law firm of McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC at the end of 2018, where he provided guidance to a broad range of clients including residential, commercial and industrial customers, cooperatives, municipally-owned and investor-owned utilities, according to the PUCO’s website.

His experience includes developing Ohio’s innovative self-help natural gas program in 1973; implementation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 in Ohio; proactive leadership on Ohio utility legislation providing customers with supply-side and demand side choices; and general counsel to the Industrial Energy Users-Ohio (IEU-Ohio).

While authorities are not saying why Randazzo’s residence is being searched, it comes after the FBI arrested former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four others in July who were involved in the passage of House Bill 6, which will send $1 billion to two nuclear plants formerly owned by a FirstEnergy subsidiary through new charges on Ohioans’ electricity bills.

If convicted, Householder faces up to 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors allege a company believed to be FirstEnergy and its affiliates bribed Householder with $61 million that in part was spent on political groups that helped Householder secure the leadership.

In exchange, Householder helped push through HB6, prosecutors said.

Householder was stripped of his leadership job after his arrest, but he remains in office and just won re-election.

He has pleaded not guilty and denied wrongdoing.

But two men who were charged with him over the summer, Jeff Longstreth, his former top political aide, and Juan Cespedes, a lobbyist working for the former FirstEnergy subsidiary that now owns the two nuclear plants HB6 funded, recently pleaded guilty to racketeering charges.

The extent of the men’s cooperation with federal authorities in the ongoing investigation is not yet clear.

It’s also not clear if Cespedes and Longstreth have agreed to testify against Householder and others.

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