Ohio businessman plans to plead guilty to defrauding Amish

CLEVELAND - An Ohio man has agreed to plead guilty to defrauding fellow Amish in 29 states out of nearly $17 million, the government said Tuesday.

The attorney for Monroe L. Beachy, 77, owner of A&M Investments in Sugarcreek, filed a recent notice informing federal court of Beachy's "intention to plead guilty as charged" and spokesman Mike Tobin with the U.S. attorney's office confirmed the pending guilty plea.

U.S. District Court Judge Benita Pearson has changed Thursday's pretrial hearing in Youngstown to a change of plea hearing.

Beachy declined to comment when contacted Tuesday on whether he had struck a plea bargain or why he was changing his plea. A message was left for his attorney.

Tobin said the U.S. attorney's office had no immediate comment on the pending guilty plea. Prosecutors typically avoid any comment that might disrupt a defendant's pending agreement to plead guilty.

Mail fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

The indictment charging Beachy with one count of mail fraud says he promised investors safe securities but moved money to riskier investments.

According to the indictment, nearly 2,700 people and entities, including an Amish community loan fund, lost about $16.8 million since 2006.

Beachy's firm has filed for bankruptcy protection.

The investments directed by Beachy "were not the `safe' investments as reported to his clients or investors," the indictment said.

In announcing the agreement last fall, U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach said the case highlighted the risks of affinity fraud involving trusting investors from a group with similar ethnic, religious or personal backgrounds.

Dettelbach stopped short of saying whether Beachy had personally profited or just made bad investments, but noted that Beachy had made a living for years offering investor services to the Amish.

A&M Investments filed for bankruptcy protection in June 2010, listing about $33 million in liabilities and nearly $18 million in assets.

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