A former Merrill Lynch advisor whose broker’s license was suspended has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison for duping investors—including pastors, church congregants and family members—out of nearly $5 million, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of West Virginia.


Phillip Conley, 38, of Jacksonville, Fla., pleaded guilty in June to one count of securities fraud, admitting to swindling millions of dollars from victims in multiple states. According to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s complaint, his last permanent address was Morgantown, W.Va.


Conley, according to the court document, from 2014 to 2018 falsely claimed to investors that he managed multiple private investment funds through his company ALPAX LLC and affiliated shell companies, and he induced these investors to place their money with one or more of the entities he controlled, even though he knew the investments were bogus. He also told investors that he would not make any securities investments on their behalf and would instead spend their money as if it were his own, the document said.


Conley’s investors included pastors; churches in Charleston, Parkersburg and Morgantown, W.Va.; small businesses; and family and friends. The court said these investors were misled…

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