An Amish man who managed investments for members of his religious community in 29 states was sentenced to more than six years in prison Wednesday for defrauding them out of nearly $17 million.
Federal investigators said Monroe L. Beachy, 78, promised investors safe securities but moved their money to riskier investments.
U.S. District Judge Benita Pearson rejected his request to allow him to serve his 6 1/2-year sentence at home and instead ordered that Beachy be sent to prison. Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of at least 12 years.
Beachy, who is a member of an Amish church near Sugarcreek, about 60 miles south of Cleveland, pleaded guilty in March to mail fraud. He operated an investment business that filed for bankruptcy protection two years ago.
About 2,700 people and entities, including an Amish community loan fund, lost about $16.8 million over the past six years, the government said.
"This was fraud on a massive scale," said U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach. "This defendant took advantage of people's trust in him and squandered the life savings of hundreds upon hundreds of families."
Beachy had faced up to a maximum 20-year sentence, but federal sentencing guidelines called for a short sentence.
It's uncommon for the Amish to take their disputes public, so much that members of Mennonite and Amish communities initially wanted to settle the matter out of court. But a bankruptcy judge rejected the idea last year.
Members of the Plain Community said Beachy had "accepted the counsel of his church" and wanted to dismiss the bankruptcy filing. They said he had "breached the trust of his fellow Amish and Mennonites by moving from the Plain Community's environment of trust and mutual aid" and moving the matter to bankruptcy court.
Investigators have stopped short of saying whether Beachy had personally profited, but they've noted that Beachy made a living for years offering investor services to the Amish.
Beachy's A&M Investments filed for bankruptcy protection in June 2010, listing about $33 million in liabilities and nearly $18 million in assets.
Ohio's Amish communities are centered in rural counties south and east of Cleveland. They have a modest lifestyle, traveling by horse and buggy and forgoing most modern conveniences.