An Amish man accused of setting up fraudulent accounts in order to steal money from members of his community has been sentenced to 6.5 years in prison. The Amish community, however, had wanted to settle the case out of court, which is more consistent with their religious beliefs.
"This was fraud on a massive scale," United States Attorney Steven Dettelbach told the Associated Press. "This defendant took advantage of people's trust in him and squandered the life savings of hundreds upon hundreds of families."
Monroe L. Beachy, 78, claimed to be an investment manager who would bring high returns to his clients. Beachy's scheme, however, involved moving investors' money to high-risk investments, causing him to lose all of his clients' money. The case gained national attention, affecting 29 states and over 2,700 people.
Even though Beachy lost over $16.8 million in the past six years, members of the Amish community wanted to settle the case in their own way. The Amish traditionally shun public officials and authorities, instead relying upon the guidance of God and religious elders.
A bankruptcy judge, who heard the case when Beachy filed for bankruptcy two years ago, dismissed the Amish community's request and Beachy was put on trial. He faced up to 20 years in prison, but District Judge Benita Pearson sentenced him to 6-and-a-half years in prison.
The case surprised many, as it is incredibly rare for the Amish to bring complaints before the court. Traditionally, the community chooses to speak with the defendant and then decide an appropriate punishment in line with Amish guidelines. When asking the judge to settle the case out of court, members of the Amish community stated that Beachy had "accepted the counsel of his church."
The community wanted to dismiss the bankruptcy filing and settle with Beachy. He "breached the trust of his fellow Amish and Mennonites by moving from the Plain Community's environment of trust and mutual aid," they added.
Beachy will begin serving his sentence immediately.