BERKS COUNTY - Federal prosecutors announced Friday they have charged a Berks County accountant in one of the largest Ponzi schemes in Pennsylvania state history.
U.S. Attorney William McSwain says Philip Riehl was charged with conspiracy to commit security fraud, wire fraud and related offensees.
Investigators say Riehl's scheme targeted hundreds of Mennonite and Amish people over a 10 year period and netted $60M.
According to McSwain, Riehl fraudulently solicited millions of dollars from his clients into a phony investment program and diverted investors funds into an ill-fated Franklin County ice cream shop.
"Riehl allegedly made material misrepresentations about the safety and security of this investment program and about the performance of the program," McSwain said. "He also made misrepresentations and omissions about the creamery's business and financial condition."
During an investigation, authorities discovered that Trickling Springs Creamery, owned by Riehl, announced that it was ceasing operations in Sept. 2019 and later field for bankruptcy.
Independent from criminal prosecution, McSwain revealed that Pennsylvania Dept. of Banking and Securities opened an investigation in connection to sale of Trickling Springs Creamery.
Riehl, Trickling Springs Creamery and others were ordered by a hearing examiner to pay an administrative assessment of $4.375M. McSwain says this is the largest civil penalty in the history of the state's banking and securities agency.
Riehl, a member of the Little Mountain Mennonite Church, is alleged to have preyed on members of his own community during the scheme.
"It's alleged that Riehl presented himself as a trusted member of their community, only to betray that trust and swindle them out of tens of millions of dollars," McSwain said.
If convicted of the alleged charges, state prosecutors say Riehl could face up to 45 years in prison and $5M fine among other circumstances.
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