Three Individuals Associated with Connecticut Energy Cooperative Convicted of Misusing Funds
Acting United States Attorney Leonard C Boyle, Special Agent in Charge David Sundberg of the FBI’s New Haven Division, and Special Agent in Charge Joleen D. Simpson of IRS Criminal Investigation in New England announced that a federal jury in New Haven today found DREW RANKIN, 60, the former chief executive officer of the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Corporation (“CMEEC”); JAMES SULLIVAN, 55, former chairperson of the CMEEC Board of Directors, and JOHN BILDA, 57, former City of Norwich representative on the CMEEC Board of Directors, guilty of an offense related to the theft of federal funds.
CMEEC is a cooperative public corporation that permits municipal electric utilities in Connecticut to join together to furnish electric power in the municipalities’ areas of operation. CMEEC’s members included the City of Norwich, the City of Groton, the Borough of Jewett City, the Second Taxing District of the City of Norwalk, the Third Taxing District of the City of Norwalk, and the Town of Bozrah. As the owners of CMEEC, each member town executed an agreement through its respective municipal electric utility outlining the terms and conditions under which the CMEEC members participated together in CMEEC. The CMEEC membership agreement provides that excess revenues are designated as “CMEEC Margin,” and that the excess revenues are to be returned to the member towns to help keep electricity costs stable for ratepayers.
Between 2010 and 2015, CMEEC received more than $9 million dollars from the U.S. Department of Energy. CMEEC member towns also received funds from federal grants.
According to the evidence and testimony presented during the trial, Rankin, Sullivan, Bilda and others planned, organized and directed lavish trips outside of Connecticut, including trips to the Kentucky Derby in 2015 and 2016, and to a luxury golf resort in West Virginia in 2015. These trips did not relate to CMEEC business or CMEEC Member business, but were intended to personally benefit, compensate and reward the defendants, their family members, friends and associates. Costs for the trips, which totaled more than $800,000, included travel expenses, private chartered airfare, first-class hotel accommodations, meals, tickets to sporting events, golf fees, souvenirs and gifts.
In response to reporter inquiries about the Kentucky Derby and golf trips, Rankin underreported the costs of the trips, omitted the names of attendees who were not CMEEC employees or board members, and made other false statements related to how the trips were funded. After the trips were known to the general public, CMEEC canceled a reservation it had made for the 2017 Kentucky Derby, and was refunded only approximately $90,000 of the $298,960 it had prepaid for the trip in May 2016.
On November 6, 2018, a grand jury returned a four-count indictment charging Rankin, Sullivan and Bilda, as well as Edward DeMuzzio, a City of Groton representative and the secretary of the CMEEC Board of Directors, and Edward Pryor, the former chief financial officer of CMEEC, with one count of conspiracy and three counts of theft concerning a program receiving federal funds. The jury found Rankin, Sullivan and Bilda guilty of one count of theft concerning a program receiving federal funds, and not guilty of conspiracy and a second count of theft concerning a program receiving federal funds. DeMuzzio and Pryor were found not guilty on each of the three counts. One count of theft concerning a program receiving federal funds was dismissed during the trial.
At sentencing, Rankin, Sullivan and Bilda face a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years. A sentencing date is not scheduled.
This matter has been investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Energy. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sarah P. Karwan, Michael S. McGarry and Tara E. Levens.