High court to weigh freezing ex-Ohio regulator’s $8M assets

The Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to settle a dispute over the freezing of $8 million in assets belonging to a former top utility regulator embroiled in the sweeping Statehouse bribery scheme alleged by federal prosecutors

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio Supreme Court announced Tuesday that it will take up a dispute over the freezing of $8 million in assets belonging to a former top utility regulator caught up in the sweeping Statehouse bribery scheme alleged by federal prosecutors.

At the request of Republican Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, a Franklin County judge froze Sam Randazzo's assets in August 2021. Yost made the request after Randazzo, the former chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, transferred a home worth $500,000 to his son and sold properties worth a combined $4.8 million.

A three-judge panel reversed that decision in September and unfroze the assets. It is that decision, stayed since December, that justices agreed to revisit.

Randazzo resigned his job as PUCO chair in November 2020, after FBI agents searched his Columbus home. He has not been charged in conjunction with the House Bill 6 scandal.

FirstEnergy Corp., the Akron-based utility giant regulated by the commission, later admitted to paying a $4.3 million bribe to a person who meets Randazzo's description. The bribe was part of a scheme allegedly led by former House Speaker Larry Householder to win the speakership, elect allies, pass a $1 billion bailout of two aging FirstEnergy-affiliated nuclear plants and block a referendum on the bill.

Householder and an associate will go on trial next week. Two other associates and a nonprofit used in the scheme have pleaded guilty and await sentencing. A fifth man arrested in the scheme died by suicide in 2021.