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Ohio lobbyist named in bribery probe found dead in Florida

An Ohio lobbyist who faced charges in connection with a federal bribery investigation was found dead in Florida, authorities announced Tuesday. 

Collier County, Fla., authorities confirmed to The Associated Press that the body of 67-year-old Neil Clark was found Monday by a cyclist.

In a police report obtained by CBS News's Columbus, Ohio, affiliate WBNS-TV, authorities redacted the names of those involved, but said that the body had a head wound and that a firearm was recovered at the scene by police. 

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The cause of death has not yet been officially reported, with a medical investigation and autopsy underway. 

According to WBNS-TV, authorities who contacted Clark’s wife said she had not heard from him for hours Monday morning, adding that the two were having financial issues. 

The couple had been living in the southwestern Florida county as Clark faced allegations of involvement in a vast $60 million bribery scheme led by former Ohio House Speaker and current state Rep. Larry Householder (R) in exchange for passing a controversial $1 billion bailout for two Ohio nuclear power plants. 

Clark pleaded not guilty in the fall to a federal racketeering charge in connection with the alleged House Bill 6 scheme, and had denied any wrongdoing. 

His attorney Will Ireland told WBNS-TV on Tuesday that the lobbyist’s death was “just a tragic loss of a good friend.” 

Householder, along with former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges, have pleaded not guilty to accepting bribery payments, while two other men charged — lobbyist Juan Cespedes and former Householder aide Jeff Longstreth — have entered into guilty plea deals. 

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According to July 2020 court filings, FirstEnergy Solutions, which owned the two nuclear plants, began paying a nonprofit controlled by Householder $250,000 quarterly payments in 2017 during his second term in the state legislature. 

Prosecutors allege that Householder used the money to strengthen his political power, fund efforts in support of passing the bill and provide payments to officials and lobbyists involved in the plan to get it passed. 

The AP reported Tuesday that federal prosecutors described Clark as Householder's enforcer who coordinated supporters and fundraising efforts. 

Clark previously said that he was writing a tell-all book detailing his time at the Ohio Statehouse.