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3 of 5 ex-utility officials guilty of theft in lavish trips

December 11, 2021 GMT

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Five former utility officials were found not guilty Friday on a charge of conspiracy, while the same federal jury found three guilty of theft stemming from lavish trips they took to the Kentucky Derby and a luxury golf resort.

The junkets had been arranged by the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative for dozens of top staff, board members, family members and others from 2013 to 2016. Prosecutors said money used for the trips came from a special account that was intended to be returned to municipalities as rate-stabilization funds.

The nonprofit CMEEC, which receives grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, is owned by municipal utilities in Norwich, Jewett City, Groton, Bozrah and Norwalk.

The cooperative’s former CEO Drew Rankin, former Norwich Public Utilities General Manager John Bilda and former Norwich utilities commission and CMEEC board Chairman James Sullivan were found guilty on one count of theft from a federally funded program for trips in 2015 to the Kentucky Derby and The Greenbrier golf resort in West Virginia, The Day of New London reported.

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All three were found not guilty on conspiracy and theft counts stemming from a 2014 trip to the Derby. Former Groton utilities commissioner and former CMEEC board member Edward DeMuzzio and former CMEEC Chief Financial Officer Edward Pryor were acquitted on all charges.

The defendants argued the money belonged to the energy cooperative, which functions as a corporation and is allowed to pay for board retreats.