A former Ohio House of Representatives speaker was found guilty on Thursday by a federal jury of participating in a racketeering conspiracy that involved nearly $61 million in bribes and a $1.3 billion bailout for two struggling nuclear power plants, the authorities said.
Larry Householder, the former Ohio House speaker who was once one of the state’s most powerful officials, and Matthew Borges, a former chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, face maximum prison sentences of 20 years each for their roles in the scheme.
A nuclear energy company financed Mr. Householder’s election and bankrolled efforts to push the bailout through the Ohio House and defeat a ballot measure that would have overturned it, and then sent him and others bribes, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said. The F.B.I. did not identify which energy company was involved, but the U.S. Justice Department noted that FirstEnergy Corporation agreed to pay a $230 million fine for “conspiring to bribe public officials.”
Mr. Householder’s attorneys will “most certainly” appeal the decision, Steven L. Bradley, one of Mr. Householder’s lawyers, said.
“Larry is looking forward to going home after a long seven-week trial and spending time with his wife and family,” he said.
Mr. Householder, 63, and Mr. Borges, 50, were arrested in 2020 for the scheme, which dated back to 2017. Mr. Householder was then stripped of his post as speaker, but he was elected by voters months after his indictment. The Ohio House expelled Mr. Householder in a 75-to-21 vote in June 2021.
“He respects the jury’s service,” Robert T. Glickman, a lawyer who represented Mr. Householder, said of the former House speaker. “He respects the verdict, although he disagrees with it.”
Mr. Householder received a $500,000 bribe through his tax-exempt social welfare organization, which he used to pay down credit card debt and repair a Florida home, officials said.
Mr. Borges spent about $366,000 of his bribe on himself and had enough money left to pay off a person described as a “Republican operative” to save the bailout legislation, the Justice Department said.
Representatives for Mr. Borges did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“Larry Householder illegally sold the statehouse, and thus he ultimately betrayed the great people of Ohio he was elected to serve,” U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Parker said in a statement. “Matt Borges was a willing co-conspirator, who paid bribe money for insider information to assist Householder. Through its verdict today, the jury reaffirmed that the illegal acts committed by both men will not be tolerated and that they should be held accountable.”
Previously, Jeffrey Longstreth, Mr. Householder’s campaign and political strategist, and Juan Cespedes, a lobbyist, pleaded guilty to their roles in the racketeering.