CINCINNATI (AP) — A prosecutor says a former Ohio lawmaker defrauded investors in a technology company out of millions of dollars, while the lawmaker’s attorney says the state is trying to make his client a scapegoat for others who mismanaged the business and embarrassed investors.
The claims were made Monday as the trial of former Ohio state Rep. Pete Beck began in Cincinnati. The 62-year-old certified public accountant from Mason was charged with more than 50 counts involving a now-defunct startup tech company called Christopher Technologies.
Beck was the company’s chief financial officer, Assistant Attorney General Daniel Kasaris said in opening statements. He said the state will show that Beck misled investors, defrauding some out of thousands of dollars, and lied to investigators repeatedly.
“This case is about lies, it’s about deception,” Kasaris said.
He told Judge John Andrew West that emails and other documents will show that Beck is guilty of all the charges against him, including fraud, perjury, theft and engaging in corrupt activity. The prosecutor said he may present as many as 30 witnesses.
Beck’s attorney, Ralph Kohnen, told the judge there is no question that the company was mismanaged by other officials and that numerous investors lost money, but he says Beck was never formally appointed or elected as the company’s CFO and was only an outside consultant.
“Peter Beck did not commit any crimes,” Kohnen said.
“We think that when you do hear the evidence, one word is going to come to mind above all else, and that word is scapegoat,” he said.
The defense attorney said Christopher Technologies failed like many startup companies that began before the 2008 recession, but he said investors were told that startup companies are risky and that they needed to seek the advice of financial advisers.
Beck waived his right to a jury trial, and West will determine his guilt or innocence.
The former legislator, who initially refused calls to resign, did give up his seat in November shortly before his term was to end. He lost his bid for re-election last May when he was defeated in the Republican primary.