- Associated Press - Thursday, August 20, 2015

CINCINNATI (AP) - A once-prominent Ohio legislator was led out of a courtroom in handcuffs Thursday after a judge ordered him to serve four years in prison in an investment fraud case.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge John Andrew West sentenced former state Rep. Pete Beck after a hearing that included testimony from a woman who said her family’s life savings were wiped out and their credit ruined following Beck’s advice to invest in a technology startup company.

West sentenced Beck, 62, to four years for violating securities sales law, and four years total on perjury and theft counts to run at the same time as the four-year securities sentence. West decided against allowing Beck to remain free on bond while he appeals.

His attorney, Ralph Kohnen, pointed to “a long, distinguished career” including service as a Marine, mayor and councilman in the northeast Cincinnati suburb of Mason, an accountant and chairman of the state House Ways and Means Committee. He called Beck “a good man” and urged West to choose a community control alternative to incarceration.

However, Daniel Kasaris, an assistant Ohio attorney general, said Beck’s crimes, which include lying under oath, undermine the public’s confidence in their lawmakers.

“That’s a statewide problem that you have to deal with … in a tough manner,” said Kasaris, who also repeatedly blasted Beck for not apologizing to investors or to his former fellow legislators.

“We will be dealing with this financial disaster for years to come,” investor Christine Walter testified in the sentencing hearing. She said the bad investment Beck led her and her husband Thomas into cost them their savings, forcing them to use credit cards to pay for their children’s educations and causing “emotional anxiety and distress” that keeps them up at night.

West didn’t order Beck to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution sought by prosecutors, but the Walters are among investors who have sued Beck in a civil case scheduled for trial in September 2016.

West convicted Beck in June after a 10-week nonjury trial. He acquitted Beck on all but 13 of more than three dozen charges. Beck’s attorneys contended he was a scapegoat who made a mistake in trusting that the technology company was positioned to land major contracts.

Beck resigned late last year. He lost the Republican primary in May 2014 for the seat he had held since 2009.

His attorneys told the judge that Beck has serious health issues, including a high risk of having a stroke, in urging he be allowed to remain out of prison.

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Contact the reporter at https://www.twitter.com/dansewell

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