A federal grand jury has indicted an Ohio Amish financial planner for mail fraud in a scheme described as "fraud on a massive scale" by U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Steven M. Dettelbach.

Monroe L. Beachy, 77, a member of the Amish community in Sugarcreek, Ohio, is accused of bilking 2,698 individuals and businesses in 29 states, mostly from the Amish community, out of $16.8 million.

He allegedly took $33 million from investors for two decades until 2010 by saying he was investing in risk-free government securities that would pay higher interest rates than banks. He told investors the money was invested by his company, A&M Investments, in Ginnie Mae Bond Funds, a type of mortgage-backed security issued by the Government National Mortgage Association and guaranteed by the U.S. government.

Instead, the money was invested in junk bonds and other risky securities. Beachy kept his own books and sent statements to investors about their supposed profits. He used some of the money to pay early investors and lost much of it, but did not use it to enrich himself, the U.S. attorney says. He has declared personal bankruptcy.

"This defendant took advantage of people's trust in him and squandered the life savings of hundreds upon hundreds of families," Dettelbach says.

Among the investors that lost money was the Amish Helping Fund, which was established to assist members of the Amish community with the purchase of land and buildings.

In February Beachy agreed to a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which had filed a complaint against him, but the settlement did not include an admission of guilt to any charges.

-Karen DeMasters