3 people convicted of embezzling federal funds for CT energy cooperative, prosecutors say

Three people linked to the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Corporation face up to ten years in prison after being convicted last week of misuse of federal funds, prosecutors said.

Drew Rankin, 60, former CEO of CMEEC; James Sullivan, 55, former president of CMEEC; and John Bilda, 57, the former City of Norwich representative on the CMEEC board of directors, were convicted on Friday by a federal jury in New Haven.

CMEEC is a public company that enables Connecticut municipal electric utilities to come together to provide electricity to municipal operating areas.

Members of the society included the City of Norwich, Groton, Jewett City, the Second and Third Tax Districts of Norwalk, and the Town of Bozrah.

As the owner of the company, each city has entered into an agreement through its electric utility, outlining the terms and conditions. The agreement for members states that any excess revenue would be referred to as “CMEEC margin” and would be returned to cities to help keep electricity costs stable for those paying the tariffs.

From 2010 to 2015, CMEEC received more than $ 9 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, and member cities also received federal grant funds, prosecutors said.

Rankin, Sullivan, Bilda and others took “lavish trips” out of state, including to the Kentucky Derby in 2015 and 2016 and to a luxury golf resort in West Virginia in 2015, prosecutors said. . The trips were unrelated to CMEEC business, prosecutors said.

Travel costs – which included private plane tickets, first-class hotel rooms, meals, event tickets, golf fees, souvenirs and gifts – exceeded $ 800,000, according to prosecutors.

Responding to reporters’ inquiries about the Kentucky Derby and golf trips, prosecutors said Rankin underestimated the costs of the trips, omitted the names of attendees who were not employees or board members Directors of CMEEC and made other statements on travel funding.

Once word of the trips spread, CMEEC canceled a reservation made for the 2017 Kentucky Derby, prosecutors said. Only $ 90,000 of the $ 298,960 prepaid for the trip in May 2016 was refunded after the cancellation.

In November 2018, a grand jury released a four-count indictment that indicted Rankin, Sullivan, Bilda – as well as Edward DeMuzzio, a representative for the town of Groton and secretary of the CMEEC board of directors. , and Edward Pryor, the former CFO – of conspiracy and three counts of theft regarding a program receiving federal funds.

The jury found Rankin, Sullivan and Bilda guilty of one count of theft relating to a program receiving federal funds, and not guilty of conspiracy and a second count of theft. The third count of theft offense was dismissed during the trial.

DeMuzzio and Pryor were found not guilty on all three counts.

Upon conviction, Rankin, Sullivan, and Bilda each face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The judge has yet to set a sentencing date.

Virginia S. Braud