Judge orders unfreeze of assets of regulator accused of taking bribes

An appeals judge on Wednesday ordered the government to release the millions of dollars from the bank accounts of Sam Randazzo, a former utility regulator embroiled in a public corruption scandal.

Last summer, a civil suit led by Attorney General Dave Yost won a judgement freezing up to $8 million from multiple Randazzo accounts.

Randazzo, a former chairman of the Ohio Public Utilities Commission, has not been charged with a crime and has denied any wrongdoing. However, Akron-based utility FirstEnergy Corp. said in a criminal case against the company that it paid Randazzo a $4.3 million bribe in return for favorable regulatory treatment. .

In the same filing, the company said it also engaged in a $60 million bribery scheme centered on former House Speaker Larry Householder to pass a bailout and other favorable laws worth $1.3 billion to society. Householder awaits racketeering trial in January 2023.

Although Randazzo was not criminally charged, Yost named him as a defendant in a related civil lawsuit seeking damages for the state. In August 2021, Yost’s attorneys said they were concerned that Randazzo might transfer or conceal its assets to protect them from litigation. They cited Randazzo’s various real estate sales for millions in Ohio and Florida.

However, 10th District Court of Appeals Judge Laurel Beatty Blunt said the lower court failed to show good reason that there would be “irreparable harm” if Randazzo maintained audit. She called the lower court’s review “superficial at best” and said it “provided no real explanation for its ultimate conclusions.” She also said Yost’s office provided no clear explanation as to why he had to seize up to $8 million.

The opinion notes that this is not a decision regarding the underlying charges against Randazzo, but rather a narrow decision focused on his due process rights, weighed against the interest of the state.

Randazzo’s attorney declined to comment on the decision. A spokeswoman for Yost did not respond to questions about a call and said she was considering next steps.

It’s unclear exactly how many of Randazzo’s assets were frozen, though several clues can be found in court records. A representative from the legal department of Charles Schwab & Co. said in a letter that Randazzo’s two accounts with the bank are worth nearly $3 million.

Court records show that other accounts belonging to Randazzo with JP Morgan Chase and Huntington Bank were both frozen.

Charles Miller, an attorney for Yost, said in a E-mail to Randazzo’s attorney who is attached to court documents that the state has “substantial concerns” that these funds will be “dissipated by law firm billings.”

In a related field affidavit In court detailing Randazzo’s assets, Miller noted that Randazzo owned a 1994 Mazda Miata, a pink 2002 Porsche 911 Carrera convertible, and a 2015 Porsche Macan. Randazzo’s attorney, Roger Sugarman, said in an email that no tangible property of Randazzo had been seized.

As the Ohio Capital Journal previously reported, after FBI agents were seen entering and removing boxes of gear from Randazzo’s home, he sold $4.8 million worth of property. This includes a $0 transfer from Columbus property to his son.

Get morning headlines delivered to your inbox