A Ponzi scheme involving Amish and Mennonite victims masterminded by Berks County accountant Philip Elvin Riehl is featured in an article posted Thursday by the FBI on the news section of its website, fbi.gov.
Riehl, of Bethel Township, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in July 2020 and ordered to pay nearly $60 million in restitution after pleading guilty to conspiracy and fraud charges earlier that year, according to the article. At the time, it was one of the largest Pennsylvania-based Ponzi schemes in history, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
About 400 Amish and Mennonite families across Pennsylvania and elsewhere lost a combined $59 million to Riehl in an “affinity” fraud scam. This type of scam usually involves investment pitches prey upon identifiable groups, such as religious groups or ethnic communities with which the scam leader has some connection. In this case Riehl, who is Mennonite, made use of that connection.
Though Riehl was not licensed to invest people’s money, he had earned the trust of his clients and led them to believe he would invest their money in local businesses that would offer a solid return. When Riehl entered his guilty plea, federal prosecutors declined to say how many, if any, of his victims were Lancaster County residents.