The Journal-News will have gavel-to-gavel coverage of the criminal trial of former state lawmaker Pete Beck. Follow staff writer Michael D. Pitman on Twitter at @MDPitmanJournal or the hashtag #PeteBeckTrial for live updates.
A Cleveland-based doctor that invested $2.5 million into TML Consulting — the company charged with raising funds for Christopher Technologies — was a key witness for the state to show that a former Warren County lawmaker was a part of “a criminal unit.”
Dr. Charles Mbanefo was on the stand for two days, but it wasn’t until his second day of testimony on Friday where prosecution tipped its hand as to why a man who met Pete Beck only twice was testifying in his criminal trial.
“We have alleged in this case that Tom Lysaght is a co-conspirator (of Beck),” said Senior Assistant Attorney General Jesse Kramig, adding later that Lysaght, Beck “and others were working as a criminal unit to take money from investors.”
Beck, 62, is the former state lawmaker and former Mason mayor who faces 55 felony charges, which includes corruption, theft, perjury, money laundering and several securities-related violations. Beck was indicted in July 2013 on 16 counts, though all but one had been dismissed, and again in February 2014 on 54 additional counts. It’s anticipated the charges against Beck will be reduced on Monday when Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge John Andrew West hears the state’s motion to reduce the counts on the second amendment.
Much of Mbanefo’s testimony surrounded around his connection and involvement with the late Tom Lysaght, the man the state claims was the “rainmaker” in the alleged investment scheme, and a co-conspirator of Beck.
Mbanefo testified that Lysaght wanted all of his investments to be funneled through TML Consulting, Lysaght’s company, and that he had only met Beck twice.
The first time was during an awards banquet, where he said he received an award from the state that was “arranged by” Beck. He couldn’t recall exactly why he received the award.
“For being a good guy, I guess,” he said, adding that the award is in a box in his basement.
The second time Mbanefo said he met Beck was during a Christopher Technologies board of directors meeting, of which Mbanefo was a member.
He testified that after Lysaght died in 2010, he discovered a deal to put Christopher Technologies over the top was not “a week away from closing,” as he had been told.
Mbanefo said he was not asked to join in the civil suit against Beck, which was filed by Christopher Technologies investors in January 2013. He also did not file a claim against Lysaght’s estate. Instead, he applied his investment losses against his tax liabilities.
“I was licking my wounds at the time,” Mbanefo said about his $2.5 million in lost investments. “I would just claim my tax deduction and move on.”
The prosecution discussed a document that contained hand-written notes from Lysaght that indicated he would give Beck’s political campaign a $5,000 contribution from TML Consulting.
TML Consulting donated more than $15,000 to Beck’s political campaign in 2010. A forensic accountant that testified earlier in the week testified that when he “followed the money” the Beck campaign contributions originated from a $500,000 Michael Farms investment.
The bench trial, which was originally scheduled for four weeks, will enter its sixth week Monday. The three investors who had been the subject of testimony by numerous witnesses are scheduled to testify next week.