The Journal-News was the only news agency to provide you gavel-to-gavel coverage in the criminal trial of former Warren County politician Pete Beck. Make sure to follow us online at www.Journal-News.com and reporter Michael D. Pitman on Twitter at @MDPitmanJournal.
Ohio state lawmakers facing criminal charges in the past five years:
April 2011: Robert Mecklenborg, R-Green Twp., state representative, arrested for suspicion of drunken driving in Indiana in April 2011, resigned from the Ohio House in August 2011, and was disciplined by the Ohio Supreme Court in May 2014 for lying on his driver’s license renewal application in Ohio.
June 2012: W. Carlton Weddington, D-Columbus, state representative, pleaded guilty to bribery, election falsification, ethics violation and sentenced to three years in prison. Released from prison in October 2014.
Jan. 2013: Clayton Luckie, D-Dayton, state representative, pleaded guilty to theft and money laundering charges and sentenced to three years in prison.
Oct. 2014: Sandra Williams, D-Cleveland, and Dale Mallory, D-Cincinnati, state representatives, each pleaded guilty to misdemeanor ethics charges.
June 2015: Peter Beck, R-Mason, former state representative, convicted of 13 felonies in an investment scandal case.
July 2015: Steve Kraus, R-Sandusky, state representative, faces trial in Ottawa County on felony charges of theft and burglary.
Former Ohio lawmaker Pete Beck could face up to almost 50 years in prison after being found guilty Tuesday on 13 of 38 felony counts, including perjury and theft.
Beck, a 62-year-old former Mason mayor and state representative, was convicted for his part in the alleged investment scheme involving the companies, Christopher Technologies, and to a lesser extent, TML Consulting. He was accused of duping investors of the failed tech company out of millions of dollars, some of which he allegedly used for political gains.
Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Andrew West found Beck guilty on seven perjury counts, three theft counts and three securities-related counts. He faces six to 18 months in prison for each of the theft counts, nine to 36 months for each of the theft counts and three to 10 years for each of the securities-related counts.
But West acquitted Beck of 25 counts, including the most damaging charge of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, which carried a minimum, mandatory 10-year prison term.
J. Thomas Hodges, the attorney representing several investors in one of two civil lawsuits against Beck, said the verdict “confirms what we already knew, that he’s a liar and a thief.”
“We’re glad he’s finally held accountable, but my clients have known this for a long time,” Hodges said of Beck. “This is just another chapter in the misery my clients have lived with for years.”
Beck, his lead defense attorney Ralph Kohnen and lead prosecutor, Senior Assistant Attorney General Dan Kasaris, all declined to comment after the verdict.
Beck is the latest state or county politician to be found guilty of criminal wrongdoing. He joins state representatives Clayton Luckie, of Dayton, and Dale Mallory, of Cincinnati, and former Butler County Commissioner and Children Services Director Mike Fox, among others who have been convicted in the past five years.
He is scheduled for sentencing at 9 a.m. on Aug. 20. In a worst-case scenario, if West sentences him to consecutive terms on each count, Beck could serve just shy of 15 years at a minimum or a maximum of 49-1/2 years.
“There were a number of people that were harmed in this lengthy, lengthy scam that was laid out over the last 10 weeks, and I think the court today decided the individuals deserved the justice that was handed down to Mr. Beck,” said Tom Walter, one of 14 investors currently suing Beck. “And there were other individuals that had pleaded guilty, and we’re happy with the results.”
Over the course of the 10-week trial, Beck’s defense team maintained their client was merely a “scapegoat,” and the charges were levied because of several “embarrassed” investors. But prosecutors claimed Beck was nothing more than a liar who conspired with others to defraud investors out of their money.
West’s verdict showed the judge believed Beck was guilty on taking some investor money for personal gain, but most importantly he was not a part of an alleged criminal enterprise as charged by the state of Ohio.
West said he was “not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt” Beck was involved in the Michael Farms deal, a $500,000 transaction negotiated and executed by TML Consulting owner Tom Lysaght, the man the state called the “rainmaker” in the alleged investment scheme.
West also said he was not convinced Beck had “a substantial role” in the second investment, a loan of a collective $150,000 into Christopher Technologies, by Corey Jordan, Robert Prangely and P.J. Boland. In fact, the judge said the testimony of the men — known as the Three Amigos by the prosecution — were “exaggerated” and “untruthful.”
While Beck was convicted on seven perjury counts, he was found not guilty on three because one was “not material” and two surrounded statements made after being asked “ambiguous questions.”
Beck was indicted on 16 charges in July 2013 and was indicted on an additional 54 counts in February 2014. During the 10 week trial, prosecutors amended the second indictment, which superseded the first, to 39 charges. At the conclusion of closing arguments, West dismissed one of those 39.
There were others involved in the alleged securities fraud scheme who took plea deals. Among them were:
former Christopher Technologies CEO and co-founder John Fussner pleaded guilty in April 2014 to two counts of securities fraud in exchange to testify against Beck. Sentencing is set for June 18.
Vernon “Chip” DeMois, a business consultant who pleaded no contest but found guilty in March 2015 on a securities violation count related to the Michael Farms deal. Sentencing is set for June 30.
Janet Combs, the widow of the late Tom Lysaght and pastor of the Ark by the River Fellowship which the state called “a cult” in court documents, pleaded guilty in November 2014 on a single count of receiving stolen property. She was sentenced to community control in January 2015.
Beck’s attorneys have maintained throughout the course of the trial their client was a victim, and Lysaght used Beck’s political standing. Walter, one of the investors, didn’t agree.
“I think Mr. Beck knew exactly what he was doing, and (we) feel justice was served,” he said.