Larry Householder, the former Republican speaker of Ohio's House of Representatives, has been found guilty by a federal jury on Thursday on racketeering conspiracy charges related to a massive $60 million bribery scheme.
"As presented by the trial team, 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 Parker said.
Mathew Borges, a former Ohio Republican Party Chair who was also convicted Thursday, faces up to 20 years in jail for coordinating the plot to receive bribes in exchange for the passage of a billion-dollar bailout for a nuclear energy business.
Prosecutors claimed Householder hatched a conspiracy surreptitiously funded by Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp to secure his legislative authority, elect his cronies, and then pass and defend a $1 billion nuclear power plant bailout benefiting the electric utility.
They claimed Borges, who was then a lobbyist, tried to bribe an operative for inside information on the referendum to repeal the bailout.
Householder had been one of Ohio's most prominent legislators - and twice elected speaker - until the Republican-controlled House expelled him from his leadership seat after his indictment, and subsequently from the chamber in a bipartisan vote with Householder strongly opposing. It was the first time such an expulsion had occurred in 150 years.
In Ohio, the punishment for bribery charges depends on the specific offense and the circumstances surrounding the case.
For example, if a person is convicted of a third-degree felony for bribery, they could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. If the offense is considered a second-degree felony, the punishment could be up to eight years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. In some cases, the court may also order the defendant to pay restitution to the victim.
However, the punishment for former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder's conviction on racketeering conspiracy charges related to a $60 million bribery scheme could be more severe, as racketeering is a federal crime and can carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.
Householder's counsel characterized his actions as nothing more than hardball politics.
Householder's longstanding campaign and political adviser, Jeffrey Longstreth, and lobbyist Juan Cespedes earlier pled guilty to their roles in the racketeering conspiracy.