A rep affiliated with LPL Financial allegedly stole $5 million from about two dozen people he knew from church and Little League.
The adviser, James J. Buchanan, has been charged with one count of fraud and 14 counts of theft, according to an indictment filed May 12 with the Maricopa (Ariz.) County Superior Court.
Each of those are felony counts.
Mr. Buchanan, who is being held in lieu of a $1 million cash bond, joined LPL of Boston in 2006.
Before that, he was affiliated with Ameriprise Financial Inc. of Minneapolis.
The alleged fraud and theft has been going on since 2001 through April, when he was fired by LPL, according to the indictment.
Maricopa County includes Phoenix and Scottsdale and the surrounding suburbs.
Investigators believe there are numerous victims and an unknown amount of damages.
Court documents paint a picture of Mr. Buchanan committing affinity fraud, a scam that preys upon members of an identifiable group, such as a religious community.
He posed as a certified financial planner, persuading many elderly clients to invest their life savings with him.
The alleged fraud began to unravel in March, when one victim reported to the Maricopa County sheriff that she had been defrauded of $200,000 after Mr. Buchanan pleaded with her to keep quiet, court documents show.
“Most of the victims reported that they invested with money with Buchanan because he was revered as an honest Christian man,” said an addendum to the case filing.
“Buchanan was a board member with his church, and offered help to many people in his membership.”
Some of the investors’ money went into Mr. Buchanan’s personal bank account, the addendum said.
Mr. Buchanan also allegedly stole $1 million from his church, the Christ Life Church of Tempe, Ariz.
One victim was a retired police officer who Mr. Buchanan talked into taking early retirement based upon the returns he promised the officer would realize on his investment.
In the investment world we have observed smooth-talking Christian thieves before, notably Leo Wells of Wells Real Estate and Wells REIT. Showy Christians distract you with great displays of their high-toned morality for one purpose: to get their hands on your wallet.
If my financial advisor or banker made a big show of his Christianity, I would withdraw my funds immediately.