PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The owner of an award-winning organic dairy who pleaded guilty to defrauding investors of nearly $60 million was sentenced Monday to 10 years in federal prison.
Philip Riehl, an accountant and the majority owner of Trickling Springs Creamery, ran a long-running Ponzi scheme that preyed on hundreds of Amish and Mennonite investors, according to federal prosecutors. He pleaded guilty in February to securities and wire fraud and conspiracy.
Chambersburg-based Trickling Springs Creamery opened in 2001 and produced milk, cream, butter, ice cream, yogurt and cheese. The dairy’s products were sold up and down the East Coast.
Court documents said Riehl lured investors to a fund that made most of its loans to Trickling Springs and paid off older investors with money from new investors. He and a co-conspirator also sold promissory notes in an effort to prop up the struggling creamery, lying to investors that it was profitable when in reality it was losing money, according to court documents.
The business abruptly closed its doors last fall.
“The people who invested their money, sometimes their entire life’s savings, with Philip Riehl believed implicitly that they could trust him because he was one of their own,” U.S. Attorney William McSwain said in a written statement. “Riehl preyed upon that trust, swindling them out of tens of millions of dollars in an effort to keep his creamery business from going under.”
A federal judge ordered Riehl to pay restitution, though authorities acknowledged that Riehl’s victims won’t be made whole.