The Securities and Exchange Commission filed charges against Monroe L. Beachy, a 77-year-old Amish man from Sugarcreek, Ohio. They found the Bernie Madoff of the Amish.
Beachy targeted his fellow Amish in his alleged fraud. He raised more than $33 million from as early as 1986. Beachy enticed investors by promising interest rates that were greater than banks were offering at the time. Beachy told his investors that their money would be used to purchase risk-free U.S. government securities. Many of Beachy’s investors treated their investment accounts with Beachy like money market accounts, from which they could withdraw their money at any time. In reality, Beachy used the money to make speculative investments in junk bonds, mutual funds, and stocks.
By the time Mr. Beachy filed for bankruptcy in June 2010, less than $18 million of the original $33 million of investor money remained.
I would guess that Beachy started off doing the right thing, but made a bad investment along the way. Rather than be honest with his investors, he took greater risks to try and make back the earlier loss, missing again and again.
Like Madoff, it sounds like he was offering a modest rate of return. That would allow this Ponzi scheme to go on longer and longer.
Like Madoff, the fraud continued for decades. Because of the length of Mr. Beachy’s alleged scheme, generations of families were affected. Older generations of Amish investors would referred their children to Beachy.
Unlike Madoff, Beachy had actually invested the money. Just not in the safe investments he promised to his investors.
UPDATED: The Washington Post has a great story with some background on the fraud: In an Amish village, the SEC alleges a Madoff-like fraud by David S. Hilzenrath.
Amish Buggy Sign is by Daniel Schwen