The Securities and Exchange Commission has settled a case with an Ohio man accused of committing a multi-million-dollar investment scam aimed mainly at the Amish community.
In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, the SEC alleged that Monroe L. Beachy, a 77-year-old member of the Amish community in Sugarcreek, Ohio, raised $33 million from investors and told them he would invest it in risk-free government securities that would pay higher interest rates than what banks where offering.
Instead, he invested it in speculative securities such as junk bonds, as well as stocks, bonds, mutual finds and Ginnie Mae securities. He began collecting money from investors in 1986 under the company name of A&M Investments, and was a registered rep of H.D. Vest Advisory Services Inc. until 2004.
He raised money from more than 2,600 investors in 29 states--the vast majority of them being Amish. As part of his Chapter 7 personal bankruptcy protection filing on June 30, 2010, Beachy said he lost roughly $15 million of the $33 million he collected.
The SEC says Beachy did his own books and made his own investment decisions. He mailed monthly statements that showed rates of return and account balances, and never disclosed the incurred losses. Beachy's scheme lasted long enough to where second-generation Amish were investing with him.
While Beachy's case smells like a Ponzi scheme, the SEC didn't charge him as such. "It's certainly a scheme where investors thought their money was being used one way but it was used in another way, which is one of the hallmarks of a Ponzi scheme," says John Sikora, an attorney with the SEC's Chicago office. "But at the same time, we don't allege he used the funds to enrich himself."
The SEC filed a complaint, but Beachy agreed to a settlement without admitting or denying the allegations. The settlement, which was approved by the court on Friday morning, doesn't impose a civil penalty against Beachy due to his financial situation.
SEC attorney Brian Fagel says the roughly $18 million remaining from the original $33 million raised by Beachy is controlled by the Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee, and those funds will eventually be distributed to investors.