State Rep. Peter Beck, R-Mason, plans to serve his full term and run for re-election this spring, despite facing 69 felony counts for his alleged role in defrauding investors in a West Chester startup.
“Yes and yes. Yes, ma’am,” Beck said in response to an Enquirer reporter’s questions about his plans, as he rushed into an Ohio House committee meeting. He spread his arms, as if to say, “I’m here, aren’t I?”
Beck was first indicted on 16 counts last summer. That number expanded to 69 after fellow Republicans Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters on Thursday filed new charges of corruption, fraud and perjury against Beck. He has refused to resign in spite of calls for his resignation from Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges and Ohio House Speaker Bill Batchelder, R-Medina.
Beck is accused of helping to bilk investors of hundreds of thousands of dollars as chief financial officer of an insolvent West Chester software startup owned by the late Cincinnati money manager Thomas M. Lysaght. The charges say Beck also took some of the money intended for the startup, called Christopher Technologies, and diverted it to his campaign fund.
Much of the money from the fraud also went to Ark by the River Fellowship Ministry, a secretive Linwood church investigated by The Enquirer in September, according to the indictment issued Thursday. So the church and Pastor Janet Combs, who is Lysaght’s widow, also face felony charges for corruption, money laundering and receiving stolen property.
Beck has maintained his innocence. His attorneys have characterized him as a victim in the fraud, not a conspirator.
With the latest indictment, Beck agreed to step down as chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, which handles taxes. Rep. Jeff McClain, R-Upper Sandusky, will chair the committee instead.
Speaker Batchelder said he also believed Beck should resign his House seat. Beck’s current two-year term expires in December.
“While I do not have the sole authority to remove any member of House, it is still my belief that it is in the best interest of Representative Beck, his family, and the constituents of the 54th House District for him to resign,” Batchelder said Thursday in a statement. “While there is always a presumption of innocence until proven otherwise, it is my belief that these very serious allegations could cause a distraction to the good work of the Ohio House of Representatives.”
Batchelder had also called for Beck’s resignation last summer. When it became clear that Beck would not resign, the speaker said he had just been making a suggestion.
Beck’s trial currently is scheduled to start a month before the May 6 primary, but that could be postponed. He will face two other accountants, Mary Jo Kubicki, R-Deerfield Township, and Paul Zeltwanger, R-Mason, in the primary.
Kubicki has already far outraised Beck. At the end of 2013, Kubicki had $58,000 in her campaign account, while Beck had just $5,500. Zeltwanger said he had not started fundraising by the end of 2013 and did not file a financial report for that period. He declined to say how much money he has on hand, saying only that he’d have enough to run a successful campaign.
Kubicki has said Beck should resign, while Zeltwanger stopped short of calling for Beck’s resignation.
Beck is facing charges in part for allegedly convincing people to invest money in Christopher Technologies, or CTech, without telling them it was insolvent. Beck did so using his position as then-vice mayor of Mason and also stole money from his Milford accounting firm, then known as Donahoo, Cupp and Beck, Thursday’s indictment said.
Also named in the indictment is TML Consulting – a “shell company,” the charges say, run by Lysaght and Combs. A Mount Lookout mansion called “Crusade Castle,” owned by the church for Combs’ use, is eligible for forfeiture under the charges.