Top Ohio lawmaker charged in $60 million bribery, corruption scheme

Larry Householder and four associates were arrested in a federal crackdown.

July 21, 2020, 7:43 PM

A powerful Ohio lawmaker and four associates were arrested and charged on Tuesday in what federal authorities say was a $60 million bribery and corruption scheme.

Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, 61, was among five men taken into custody and changed in federal court Tuesday morning after FBI agents raided Householder's farm along with several other properties.

Householder adviser Jeffrey Longstreth, former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matthew Borges and lobbyists Neil Clark and Juan Cespedes were also taken into custody after the raid, officials said.

During a Tuesday afternoon press conference, U.S. Attorney David DeVillers said it was likely the largest bribery and money laundering scheme ever "perpetrated against the people of the state of Ohio."

"It takes courage for citizens to assist law enforcement in the ways detailed in the affidavit," DeVillers said in a statement. "We are grateful to those who felt a moral duty to work together with agents in bringing to light this alleged, significant public corruption."

PHOTO: This March 5, 2019 file photo shows Ohio House speaker Larry Householder speaking in Columbus, Ohio.
This March 5, 2019 file photo shows Ohio House speaker Larry Householder speaking in Columbus, Ohio.
Paul Vernon/AP Photo

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine called for Householder's immediate resignation in the wake of the announcement, saying it was "a sad day for Ohio."

"I am deeply concerned about the allegations of wrongdoing in the criminal complaint issued today by the U.S. Attorney's Office," the Republican governor said in a statement. "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."

The case involves the state's $1 billion nuclear plant bailout fund as well as Householder's political maneuverings leading up to his appointment as House speaker.

Householder, a Republican, is accused of siphoning energy company funds through a dark money group, and using the money for personal gain and to back the campaigns of legislative candidates who supported his appointment as Ohio House speaker.

He could face up 20 years in prison if convicted.

Federal authorities said they had been investigating the case for about a year. They said some of those involved made incriminating statements about bribery and other crimes to undercover federal agents, according to federal documents.

The suspects made their initial appearances electronically in federal court Tuesday afternoon.

Afterward they were released from federal custody, with travel restrictions. They were also banned from contacting others involved in the case and ordered to remove any firearms from their homes.

ABC News' Josh Hoyos contributed to this report.