Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four others appeared U.S. District Court Magistrate Stephanie K. Bowman on Tuesday on charges that they participated in a racketeering conspiracy.
Householder’s appearance came hours after FBI agents visited his Glenford farm in Perry County on Tuesday morning.
He is charged with conspiracy to participate in a racketeering scheme — a charge that carries up to 20 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.
Bowman agreed to release Householder on bond with conditions, including no firearms, no contact with others listed in the criminal complaint and some travel restrictions.
Bowman ordered Householder to surrender his firearms by 5 p.m. tomorrow.
Political consultant Jeff Longstreth, lobbyist Neil Clark, lobbyist Juan Cespedes and former Ohio GOP Chairman Matthew Borges are each charged with conspiracy to participate in a racketeering scheme. They face similar release conditions imposed on Householder.
A preliminary hearing is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 6, though attorneys for Borges and Cespedes indicated they would waive the hearing.
An 81-page redacted criminal complaint was unsealed by the government on Tuesday.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Chris Hoffman and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio David DeVillers briefed the the press on the federal racketeering case that involves a $60 million bribe, a news advisory says.
Federal Bureau of Investigation agents were at the Householder property in Glenford early this morning, said Perry County Sheriff Sgt. Brandon Forester. “I do not know any details on that. You need to contact the FBI. They wouldn’t release any information to us.”
FBI spokesman Todd Lindgren said, “The FBI is conducting law enforcement activity in the area.”
Householder could not be reached for comment.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine was among a bipartisan group of Ohio leaders calling for Householder to resign after the charges were announced.
“I am deeply concerned about the allegations of wrongdoing in the criminal complaint issued today by the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” DeWine said. “Every American has the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Because of the nature of these charges, it will be impossible for Speaker Householder to effectively lead the Ohio House of Representatives; therefore, I am calling on Speaker Householder to resign immediately.”
DeWine called it “a sad day for Ohio.”
“House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes, D-Akron, said the charges will “no doubt lead to the further deterioration of the public’s trust in our institutions.”
She said Householder should immediately resign and be replaced.
“As Ohioans are grappling with a public health and economic crisis like we haven’t seen in generations, this is an unnecessary distraction from the very important business facing our citizens,” Sykes said. “We cannot let this situation distract us from the important work that needs to get done.”
Householder, a farmer and businessman in Glenford, has led the GOP-controlled Ohio House since January 2019. He previously held the speaker’s gavel 2001 to 2004 but left due to term limits. He returned to the House in January 2017 and mounted a campaign to become the first lawmaker to recapture the speakership in nearly six decades.
The speaker, who one of the three most powerful politicians in Ohio, wields enormous influence over how the state spends more than $140 billion and can halt any piece of legislation.
In addition to earning his lawmaker salary, Householder earned income from Householder Farms, Peoples State Bank, Peoples National Bancshares, Perry Warehouse Company Ltd, and Householder & Sons Family, according to his latest filing with the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine postponed plans for a press conference on the coronavirus crisis this afternoon due to the U.S. Attorney’s 2:30 media briefing.