Ohio lawmaker indicted on 16 felony charges

CINCINNATI - An Ohio lawmaker was indicted Friday on 16 felony charges including fraud and theft, with authorities saying he misled investors about a company's financial status and used their money for personal benefit -- accusations his attorneys say are outlandish and shameful.

State Rep. Pete Beck, a Mason Republican and certified public accountant, was indicted on four counts of theft and two counts each of securities fraud, making misrepresentations and selling securities in an insolvent company without full disclosure, among other charges.

If convicted of all charges, he could face up to 102 years in prison, authorities said.

Beck has denied the allegations through his attorney, Konrad Kircher, who said in a statement that the charges were unsupported and that Beck "will mount a vigorous defense" to clear his name.

Another man, John Fussner, who served as president of one of the companies in question, also was indicted. He faces seven charges similar to Beck's.

In a statement, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said Beck and Fussner knew that a company known as Christopher Technologies was insolvent.

"They knew the truth, and yet deceived investors to get their capital to keep the company afloat and use the money for other purposes," said DeWine, whose office is helping prosecute and investigate the case.

A lawsuit filed in January by 14 investors from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Alabama, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., accuses Beck, the accounting firm where he worked and others of conspiring to mislead the group about the financial status of two companies, persuading them to invest when it was not advisable and misusing about $1.2 million -- the combined amount that they contributed.

The lawsuit accuses Beck, 60, and the others of using the money for personal reasons, including $15,000 toward Beck's political campaign in 2010, and says investors haven't gotten a penny back.

Much of the money went to a church whose pastor is the wife of Thomas Lysaght, who owned the businesses where the money was being invested, according to the lawsuit.

Lysaght, who has since died, Beck and the others named in the lawsuit "engaged in a pattern of behavior wherein they all would solicit investments, and once the investment was paid ... these defendants would immediately misappropriate and convert the investment," according to the lawsuit. "(Their) conduct was malicious, deliberate, gross and egregious."

In a countersuit that Beck filed in February and in other court documents, the senator said he never solicited money from investors himself, that he only prepared a few financial statements for them and that those statements accurately portrayed the companies' unstable financial status.

Beck's attorneys wrote that the investors are targeting him because Lysaght is dead and the other major player in their losses is bankrupt.

"Perhaps (they) thought that such scandalous allegations would make Beck roll over and pay them some money," the attorneys wrote. "Unfortunately for plaintiffs, Beck has his reputation to protect."

They also point out that two of the investors, Peter Boland and Robert Prangley, work for Wells Fargo as financial planners and investment advisers, and that some of the others are "sophisticated investors" themselves.

"To allege that Pete Beck duped them with doctored audited financial statements ... is simply shameful," they wrote.

Boland and Prangley did not immediately return requests seeking comment Friday, nor did the attorney representing all 14 investors.

Beck's indictment marks the third time in the last 16 months that an Ohio lawmaker has been criminally charged.

Former Rep. Clayton Luckie, a Dayton Democrat, is serving three years in prison after pleading guilty in January to election falsification, grand theft and other charges. State and federal investigators found that Luckie skimmed nearly $130,000 in campaign funds for personal use and failed to list campaign expenditures for six years.

Former Rep. W. Carlton Weddington, a Columbus Democrat, is serving three years in prison after pleading guilty in June 2012 to charges of bribery, election falsification and filing a false financial disclosure statement. Authorities said he accepted trips and cash in exchange for taking steps to introduce legislation.

Before being appointed to the House in 2009, Beck was on the Mason City Council and served as mayor from 2003 to 2005. He is married, has four children and is listed on his House member website as the chief operating officer of Home Building & Loan Company in Greenfield.
Follow Amanda Lee Myers on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AmandaLeeAP

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