In just a handful of years, members of a Canton, Ohio, family built a financial empire that included a boutique airline, a bank in the Missouri Ozarks, a chain of carpet stores, a marijuana farm in Oregon, and more than $20 million in real estate. The “conglomerate,” as the Beers family calls it, was made possible by hundreds of millions of dollars collected from Americans who thought they had found an affordable alternative to medical insurance. Instead, many were saddled with debt.
The conglomerate, however, is showing signs of strain as the family downsizes its workforce and sells off some of its holdings. These moves will free up cash, said an attorney who represents several family members, and allow them to pay off a court settlement related to its alleged fraud. Now, another big debt has come their way: Several family members face liens placed against their properties for millions in back taxes.
A ProPublica investigation earlier this year revealed how Liberty HealthShare — the Christian nonprofit the family controlled and marketed as a cheap way to circumvent Obamacare requirements — paid at least $140 million to vendors owned by members and friends of the Beers family. Those family members and friends then funneled the money through a network of shell companies to purchase scores of businesses. As the family amassed wealth, Liberty’s finances were depleted and thousands of members’ medical bills went unpaid.
As part of the settlement with the Ohio attorney general’s office in 2021, Liberty HealthShare severed all ties with the family.
Members of the family, including patriarch Daniel J. Beers, and their attorneys, have denied wrongdoing. They claim that the family-owned vendors — Cost Sharing Solutions and Medical Cost Solutions LLC — charged Liberty market rates or less for their services, which included running a call center and negotiating bill payments with doctors and hospitals.
In January, Cost Sharing Solutions laid off all but a handful of staff, according to current and former employees. “They have no money,” said one source who asked to remain anonymous because of the nondisclosure agreements that the company required employees to sign. “It’s all gone.” From 2014 to 2021, Liberty paid Cost Sharing Solutions at least $90 million.
Last month, members of the family auctioned off more than 470 acres they owned outside of Canton. Those parcels constituted roughly half of the Lazy L Ranch, the compound where most of the family lives. “From its hilltop panoramic views to wooded valleys and open farm fields, this property will take your breath away,” the auction notice read. Purchase prices and the identities of the buyers have not yet been made public.
The IRS has recently secured liens against parcels of the ranch that family members still own. Property records show that Beers’ sons, Danny and Ronnie, owe $2.9 million and $1.1 million in federal income taxes for 2017 to 2021. Brandon Fabris, who also lives on the ranch and serves as chief operating officer of Cost Sharing Solutions, owes more than $700,000 in federal taxes.
Family members have also recently sold their controlling stake in Ultimate Air Charters, a small airline that caters to gamblers who travel from Canton to locales such as Atlantic City. Rick Arnold, the attorney who represents Beers and many of the companies that family members own, said the airline was sold to an entity outside of the family. He would not disclose its identity, which also has not been made public in Ohio business filings, and did not respond to questions about the federal tax liens on the Beers and Fabris homes.
In addition to the monthly dues that Liberty members paid for coverage of their medical bills, all of these ventures benefited from taxpayer money. Seven entities in the conglomerate received more than $6.3 million in COVID-19 relief funds, the vast majority of which was forgiven by the federal government, according to a ProPublica analysis of Paycheck Protection Program data. Cost Sharing Solutions, claiming it would save 168 jobs, obtained more than $1 million in April 2020 and another $1 million in January 2021. Ohio Lazy L Ranch LTD collected more than $80,000, and Ultimate Air Charters secured more than $2.9 million.
Arnold said the layoffs and sales are a way for his clients to pay $5 million in collective damages from the settlement with the Ohio attorney general’s office. Although the agreement with the state calls for monthly payments, Arnold says his clients have negotiated a new deal to send a lump sum “within the next couple of months.”
“It was part of a greater business plan,” Arnold said of the recent transactions. “It also creates liquidity and allows them to pay the attorney general.”
Beers and the two family-controlled vendors have missed several payments and are in arrears for $290,000 and $690,000, according to records from the attorney general’s office. A spokesperson for the Ohio attorney general said the payment schedule and agreement have not changed, despite Arnold’s claim.
In 2021, Liberty members whose medical bills languished and were referred to collections filed a class-action lawsuit against the Beers family, the ministry and the two vendors. The defendants have filed a motion to dismiss, which is pending.