Investigators say Peter Beck stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from investors, lied to investigators and funneled money to his campaign and to the Ark by the River Fellowship Ministries, a church that prosecutors deem a “cult.”
Beck, a Republican state legislator from the Cininnnati area, will soon face the music for 69 criminal counts after both his co-defendants took plea deals with the state. They will be testifying against him in court.
Beck’s primary codefendent, 77-year-old Janet Combs, pleaded no contest last week and was convicted of receiving stolen property. She could receive up to three years in prison when she is sentenced January 14. The plea was in exchange for prosecutors dropping 10 other charges. The most serious charge — engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity to receiving stolen property — was dropped with her plea deal. Investigators have described her as the leader of the cult that helped facilitate the financial scam.
Ark by the River Fellowship Ministries will also have the criminal charges against it — the same charges originally filed against Combs — dismissed Dec. 11, in exchange for the Ark agreeing to pay back investors in the case $250,000. The church will pay $50,000 by the end of the year and then $200,000 more over the next three years, Senior Assistant Ohio Attorney General Daniel Kasaris told Cincinnati.com.
Beck is accused of plotting alongside co-defendant John Fussner and others to scam investors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. At the time, Beck was the chief financial officer of Christopher Technologies. He was aware that his software company was insolvent, but authorities say he still managed to convince investors to give him funds.
Fussner also took a plea deal was convicted in a plea deal to reduced charges in exchange for testifying against Beck.
Now, Beck is the lone defendant accused in the case. His indictment dates back to May, 2013, according to the Columbus Dispatch. Additional charges were filed in February, 2014 were added after the investigation had concluded:
Unlike the prior indictment, which dealt only with Beck’s dealings as chief financial officer of a startup software company, Christopher Technologies or CTech, some of the new charges relate to campaign contributions. Records show that his campaign got $15,700 from TML Consulting, a firm run by the late Thomas Lysaght, the “rainmaker” of the operation who was supposed to put investor money into a small portfolio of companies, including CTech.
Instead, the indictment said, investment money was diverted for Lysaght’s use; to Beck’s campaign; to Lysaght’s wife, Janet Combs; and to her church, the Ark by the River Fellowship Ministry.
The indictment says Beck was involved in stealing $500,000 from Michael Farms Inc. and diverting $5,000 of that into his campaign account. The indictment alleges that he also diverted investment money from a woman into his campaign account without her knowledge.
Criminal charges were also dropped against the church entity because prosecutors couldn’t hold it criminally responsible in any meaningful way, according to Cincinnati.com. However, the church apparently has some financial coffers that prosecutors tapped:
Kasaris said the plea deal for the Ark was done to try to recover some of the hundreds of thousands of dollars for Christopher Technologies investors, partly because that was the most money he believed could be recovered as a result of the criminal case.
“It’s an agreement we reached based on reality,” Kasaris said. “Practically, what are you going to do to the Ark? You can’t send the Ark to prison.”
Beck, a Republican for Ohio’s 54th House District, refused to resign after his indictment but was defeated in the Republican primary in his bid for re-election last spring.
In February 2014, after he’d been under indictment for nearly 8 months, Republicans finally forced him out of the state’s powerful House Ways and Means Committee. According to The Columbus Dispatch, while he remained on-board, “the committee was heavily involved in major legislation on municipal-income-tax changes and, more recently, efforts to craft a severance tax on shale fracking.”
In April 2014, Ohio House of Representatives passed House Bill 234, a bill Beck had authored allowing hunters to use “noise suppressors,” i.e. silencers on their firearms.
Beck’s terms ends at the end of the year, just in time for his trial to begin, although the judge hasn’t set a date yet. It’s expected to take place in early 2015.
[Image Credit: Peter Beck/ Ohio House Of Representatives]