Thursday, January 25, 2001

Former minister faces new set of securities charges

By Cliff Peale
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Gerald Lach, a former Methodist minister already under indictment on charges of selling more than $2.3 million in unregistered stock and misleading investors, was arrested Wednesday after a Clermont County grand jury indicted him on four new securities counts.

        Union Township police said they caught Mr. Lach, 77, trying to sell $200,000 in stock in his Midwest Regional Authority on Jan. 5 and Jan. 10. He spent Wednesday night in the Clermont County jail and faces a bond hearing this morning in Batavia.

        Wednesday's four-count indictment follows one of 55 counts in August. Mr. Lach was released then on $100,000 bond. The Clermont County Common Pleas Court also had issued an injunction in June prohibiting him from selling additional securities.

        “He has completely disregarded the court's orders, in the civil suit as well as his bond,” said Tony Brock, the Clermont County assistant prosecutor handling the case.

        Laura Abrams, a lawyer representing Mr. Lach, said he was attempting to surrender when he was arrested. She said he had denied the allegations.

        “Mr. Lach told me he didn't do it,” Ms. Abrams said.

        The arrest at Mr. Lach's Mount Washington home came six days before a hearing on his request to suppress a search warrant served at his home and his office in the Waycross Office Park last April.

        The newest indictment is only the latest development in a four-year saga in which Mr. Lach sold more than $2.3 million in unregistered stock to investors for projects that never happened, according to investigators.

        Since the first indictment, police have continued to search for hundreds of thousands of dollars collected by Mr. Lach during the past four years but unaccounted for in his financial statements.

        Mr. Lach's enterprises attracted more than 800 investors, most of them from Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. They invested about $2.3 million since early 1996, an Enquirer investigation showed in early May.

        More than two-thirds of that money — about $1.7 million — had been spent mainly on consultants and architects, with some of the money going to family members, records showed.

        Projects advocated by Mr. Lach included an outer-belt highway around the region, a high-tech monorail system and a 110-story tower for senior housing.

        But none of those developments appears close to happening, and state and local investigators closed in on Mr. Lach last spring.

        He used a variety of company names, including Midwest Regional Authority Inc., Community Concerned Citizens Inc., Storehouse Malachai 3:10 Inc. and Cincinnati Regional Initiative Inc.

        Ohio law requires those selling stock to first register with regulators. Both indictments allege that Mr. Lach not only sold unregistered securities but deceived investors about the purchases.

        The Ohio Department of Commerce filed a motion in Clermont County Common Pleas Court on Jan. 18, asking the court to order Mr. Lach to show cause why he should not be held in contempt for violating the previous order.

        According to the motion, Mr. Lach told the potential investor earlier this month that a public offering of Midwest Regional Authority stock was imminent, that the company was about to buy 23 acres of land near Interstate 275, and that Community Concerned Citizens had total assets of $226 million.

        “All of those representations were material and false,” the motion said.

        The indictment returned Wednesday included one count of selling unregistered securities, two counts of false representation in the sale of securities, and one count of fraudulent activity in the sale of securities.

        All the charges Mr. Lach faces are felonies and call for jail time if he is convicted, officials said.


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