Former Ohio utility regulator accused in expansive bribery scheme passes away

A former prominent utility regulator, Sam Randazzo, who was awaiting trial on charges related to a major corruption scandal in Ohio, tragically died by suicide on Tuesday, as confirmed by a spokesperson for the Franklin County Coroner’s Office.

Randazzo, aged 74, once served as the chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and was facing numerous criminal charges stemming from federal and state investigations. These charges included allegations of accepting millions in bribes, notably a $4.3 million payment from FirstEnergy Corp. in exchange for regulatory favors. Despite pleading not guilty to all charges, Randazzo faced the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence if convicted.

According to reports, Randazzo was discovered unresponsive at a property he owned in Columbus shortly before noon. Authorities have not yet provided further details, and representatives from various state offices, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, declined to comment immediately on the matter.

The corruption scandal in Ohio involved a sprawling bribery scheme orchestrated by FirstEnergy Corp., which utilized dark money groups to funnel funds towards securing legislative support for a billion-dollar nuclear bailout bill. This scandal ensnared several high-profile individuals, including former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and lobbyist Matt Borges, both of whom were convicted on federal racketeering charges.

Randazzo’s resignation from his regulatory position came in November 2020, following an FBI raid on his residence and revelations by FirstEnergy regarding the alleged bribery payments. His death marks another grim turn in the ongoing investigation, following the suicide of long-time Statehouse lobbyist Neil Clark, who was also implicated in the scandal.

While two individuals have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with authorities, Randazzo’s passing underscores the significant toll of the corruption scandal that has roiled Ohio’s political landscape. The circumstances surrounding his death further highlight the gravity of the allegations and the complex legal proceedings that have unfolded as part of this wide-reaching investigation.

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