Ohio – Two of the five men charged in the federal corruption scandal surrounding former House Speaker Larry Householder pleaded guilty Thursday to racketeering charges.
Jeffrey Longstreth, a campaign and political strategist, and Juan Cespedes, a lobbyist, appeared in court via video conference before Southern District of Ohio Judge Timothy Black to change their pleas from not guilty to guilty.
Federal investigators say both men played big roles in the corruption case involving former House Speaker Larry Householder and former First Energy subsidiary FirstEnergy Solutions, which owned the two nuclear power plants at the time prosecutors say th crimes took place. The company is now called Energy Harbor.
Longstreth admits he managed the nonprofit ‘Generation Now,’ which collected undisclosed donations to help Householder and his efforts to become Speaker of the House. Prosecutors say Generation Now was ultimately run by Householder.
Longstreth also says he was involved in deals meant to hide the nature, source, ownership and control of payments to Generation Now and that more than $10,000 from “Company A” — believed to be FirstEnergy — were passed through accounts controlled by himself or others.
Cespedes, for his part, confessed to arranging several payments to Generation Now in return for action by Householder relating to the passage and preservation of legislation that would save two nuclear power plants in Ohio” and to block the Ballot Campaign to reverse House Bill 6.
U.S. Attorney David DeVillers charged the two men in July along with Householder, lobbyist Neil Clark and former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges in what he called, “likely the largest bribery scheme ever perpetrated against the state of Ohio.”
According to court paperwork, Longstreth and Cespedes could face up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 fines along with restitution and forfeiture.
A date for sentencing has yet to be set.
“This is not the kind of news that the speaker would want to be getting,” says Jonathan Entin, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University.
Entin added, “From the U.S. Attorney’s standpoint, getting these guilty pleas is a positive development because whatever additional evidence these defendants might provide against others, we now have two fewer defendants against whom the prosecution has to prove its case.”
Court paperwork also says Householder Clark, Borges and Generation Now will all have status conferences with Judge Black Friday afternoon.