Church at the center of fraud investigation

WKRC CBS News 12, Ohio/February 17, 2014

By Rich Jaffe

Cincinnati, Ohio -- Momentum builds for what will probably be the largest white collar fraud case in our area's history.

Dozens of new charges were filed last week against Ohio state representative, Peter Beck, and his business partners all allegedly involved in the scheme. As the details emerge they paint a bizarre portrait of one person in particular, the leader of a local church.

The church is located on Eastern Avenue at Heekin, below Mt. Lookout. It's run by a woman named Janet Combs. 20-years-ago we did the first stories on a different church run by Combs called The New Burlington Fellowship. Some former members, including her own daughter, called it a cult. Now the Ohio Attorney General is describing her current church the same way.

The quaint old church in Linwood has been a fixture in this community since the late 1800's. But it's now the church leader, Janet Combs, who's in the spotlight. Combs and her husband, Tom Lysaght, were once the focus of a magazine article because they'd bought a castle over-looking the church. Combs currently lives in Hyde Park, but no one appeared to be home when I knocked on the door.

She normally avoids the spotlight possibly because in the new indictment prosecutors and investigators say her church is a "cult." One of her indicted co-conspirators is state representative, Peter Beck.

Combs, Lysaght, Warren County state representative Peter Beck and a number of other business partners and companies are all facing dozens of fraud charges and securities violations. For his part Beck told us in an exclusive interview in November of 2012 that rather than a conspirator, he is a victim.

"I feel that I was used in this whole process, that I was taken advantage of just like everybody else," he said. "I think that they see me, my name out there, making assumptions that because I knew Tom Lysaght, that I provided some services in the past, my other company for Ark By The River that I was more involved in his affairs than I was."

Beck allegedly used his political position and stat to lure investors into spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on largely bogus start up companies through a company called TML Consulting. TML was Tom Lysaght.

More than 650,000 of those dollars allegedly went to fund the church run by Lysaght's wife, Janet Combs. While Beck was the accountant for Lysaght, TML, and periodically the church he told us he doesn't know anything about the church and the money.

Beck was asked, "Any idea how tens of thousands of dollars of TML money ended up funding Ark By The River?"

He responded, "I have no knowledge of that, I don't have an answer."

Janet Combs' attorney tells me he expects she will turn herself in to authorities in the next few days before her arraignment. There is a possibility the huge number of charges listed in the new indictments will be rolled into the case already filed against Beck and his business partner, John Fussner.

Attorneys in that case say they already have more than one hundred thousand pages of documents in discovery. In the case already on file against Pete Beck and John Fussner, they have both entered pleas of not guilty.

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