Goshen man sentenced to 97 months in prison, ordered to pay over $2M for fraud

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The sentence has now been handed down in the case of 44-year-old Goshen man Earl Miller who first faced federal charges for fraud in 2015 and was found guilty in May of 2022.

Miller was sentenced to 97 months in prison, one year of supervised release, and ordered to pay $2,313,873.28 in restitution for defrauding investors in his '5 Star' real estate investment firm as far back as July 2014.

According to the Northern District of Indiana's United States Attorney's Office, Miller became the sole owner of 5 Star in July of 2014, and through the firm and it its numerous related entities, Miller obtained funds from multiple investors’ by fraudulently telling them he would invest their funds in certain real estate investments but then actually using their funds in other ways, such as paying interest to other investors, investing in non-disclosed entities, paying for a spiritual advisor and a pontoon boat.

From July 2014 to Jan. 2016, Miller made over $4.5 million worth of payments from 5 Star accounts to entities not disclosed or approved by investors, approximately 80 percent of whom were Amish or Mennonite.

"On Jan. 25, 2016, Miller filed petitions for bankruptcy relief on behalf of eleven 5 Star related business entities," the US Attorney's Office said in a statement. "In these bankruptcy proceedings, the United States Trustee appointed a chapter 11 trustee to administer the cases, and the chapter 11 trustee was able to recover some improper payments Miller had made and, on July 2, 2018, negotiate an agreement with Miller to pay $600,000 to the bankruptcy estates."

As of April 2021, Miller had only paid approximately $36,000 to the bankruptcy estates.

On May 13, 2022, Miller was found guilty by the federal trial jury of five counts of wire fraud and one count of securities fraud. That same jury acquitted Miller of one count of wire fraud and one count of bankruptcy fraud.

"The essence of this defendant’s crime is that he convinced people to invest in businesses by telling them a lie: that their money would be invested one way, while he used those funds in other ways," said United States Attorney Clifford D. Johnson. "Mr. Miller’s crimes are particularly offensive because trial evidence showed that he perpetrated his fraud against Amish and Mennonite community members."

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