State Rep. Peter A. Beck is the subject of three separate state investigations, according to his attorney.
Meanwhile, Beck this week in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court countersued those who filed a lawsuit against him. The initial suit alleges he participated in a fraud that cheated investors out of more than $1.2 million. Beck is seeking more than $25,000, punitive damages and attorney fees.
The state investigations of the Republican former mayor of Mason are coming from:
• The Joint Legislative Ethics Committee, which is trying to determine whether Beck used his position as a state lawmaker for financial gain.
Konrad Kircher, Beck’s Mason-based attorney, told The Enquirer he has heard neither from the committee nor from the legislative inspector general, Tony W. Bledsoe, who conducts investigations for the committee. Bledsoe said he could neither confirm nor deny an investigation by his office.
House Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina, told The Enquirer on Jan. 7 that the ethics committee, which he chairs, was investigating Beck.
• The Division of Securities Enforcement of the Department of Commerce, which is looking at “an alleged theft of monies from Ohio investors,” according to a Dec. 13 letter from the department obtained by The Enquirer.
Kircher said Beck is cooperating with investigators and sent a box and a half of materials to the division.
The department asked the Bureau of Criminal Identification & Investigation, which is overseen by the attorney general, to assist with the investigation. The letter asked that forensic accountant Leo A. Fernandez be assigned to the case, and the agency also “provide litigation support services.”
Lisa Peterson Hackley, a spokeswoman for the agency, said the investigation of Beck is ongoing.
• A third agency, which Kircher would not identify. It started an investigation last summer, but, said Kircher, “It’s dead in the water.”
That agency apparently is not the state auditor’s office. Carrie Bartunek, a spokeswoman, said the agency is not involved with the investigations because “it does not appear” public dollars are involved.
Beck represents Ohio’s 54th House District, which covers southwest Warren County and a small part of eastern Butler County.
Kircher said Beck’s response is a three-pronged effort. Not only is Beck charging his accusers of defaming him, but he’s asking the court “to strike various scandalous, vexatious and impertinent allegations” in the case against him. He also filed a motion to dismiss the case entirely.
The countersuit accuses the investors of trying to humiliate and embarrass Beck in an effort to “extort” concessions and a settlement. Beck refuses to settle, Kircher told The Enquirer.
Investors’ attorney J. Thomas Hodges of Cincinnati said he couldn’t comment because he hasn’t had time to review the countersuit.
The Division of Securities Enforcement can search for evidence of fraud, such as misrepresentations to investors or misspent money, by tracking bank accounts and other sources.
Lyn Tolan, a spokeswoman for the commerce department, confirmed the division received “a number of complaints on investment situations” in the Cincinnati area. She wouldn’t comment further about the Beck case.
The department’s website says a variety of actions can be taken as a result of its investigation. Those range from doing nothing to referring a case for civil or criminal prosecution.
Judith Burns, a spokeswoman for the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, declined to comment about whether that agency is investigating Beck. She cited the confidentiality of investigations.
The lawsuit against Beck, filed Jan. 3 by 14 investors – many from Hamilton, Butler and Warren counties, and others from Pennsylvania and Alabama – accuses Beck, the Milford accounting firm of Donohoo, Cupp, Beck & Associates, Ark by the River Fellowship Ministry and others of defrauding them by taking their investment and spending the money instead on personal and other non-business items.
Beck left the accounting firm in July 2012.
At least $15,000 of the defrauded money, the suit alleges, went to help Beck win election in 2010. The suit said checks for $5,000 and $10,000 were written to Beck’s campaign.
The secretary of state’s office, which overseas the state’s elections including campaign finance reports, did a routine audit of Beck’s reports in 2010. Agency spokesman Matt McClellan. said the agency found “nothing beyond” minor errors.
Attorney, others worried about Beck
The suit against Beck also alleges he was the chief financial officer for startup software company Christopher Technologies, solicited investments and sold ownership in the company. The suit alleges the money was solicited for several entities, but little of it was used for the declared purposes. It also alleges investors were misled about the “poor” financial conditions of the companies in which the money was to be invested.
Beck has refused to talk about the allegations, except to tell The Enquirer in January that they “are untrue and are an injustice. It’s been very hard on me.” He’s referred all other questions to Kircher.
State Rep. Margaret Conditt, R-Liberty Township, sits in front of Beck in the House chamber. She said Beck told her the investigations have been difficult for him.
Kircher said he’s concerned. “He’s not sleeping. He has a permanently furrowed brow, and I’ve not seen him smile for a month. He’s afraid to go out.”