Florida man sentenced for defrauding W.Va. churches, citizens

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – Phillip W. Conley, of Jacksonville, Florida, was sentenced today to 87 months in prison for defrauding West Virginia churches, pastors, and others of nearly $5 million, United States Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld, II announced.

Conley, 38, previously pleaded guilty to one count of “Securities Fraud,” admitting to swindling millions of dollars from victims in multiple states.

Conley portrayed himself as an investment advisor even after his broker’s license was suspended in December 2015. He formed a company called ALPAX, LLC, and persuaded victims to invest in false ventures such as student housing construction, high-yield fixed income securities, oil and gas technology, mineral rights, and timber leasing. Conley provided investors with a false sense of security by mailing them dividend statements that misstated the value of the investment accounts.

Conley’s victims included churches in Charleston, Parkersburg and Morgantown. Small business owners were also victimized, along with friends and family members of Conley. He spent the stolen money on private jets, designer clothes, fine dining, jewelry, and housing and living expenses.

“Securities fraud is a terrible crime and often has a devastating impact,” said United States Attorney Ihlenfeld. “Mr. Conley was very persuasive and groomed his victims, convincing them that these were legitimate investment opportunities. Unfortunately, it was a scam in which Conley robbed investors of their life savings.”

Ihlenfeld urges anyone considering investing with a stockbroker to first visit brokercheck.finra.org to learn whether a broker has been suspended or sanctioned.

“Mr. Conley lived a luxurious life, but in reality, lined his pockets by orchestrating a multi-million-dollar fraud scheme that took money from his own family members and other victims,” said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Mike Nordwall.  “His victims trusted him to safeguard their money and he betrayed their trust.  Today’s sentence sends the message that he can’t escape accountability for his actions.”

In addition to the prison sentence, Conley was ordered to forfeit any property purchased from the proceeds of the crimes and to pay a money judgment of $4,858,817.42.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Danae DeMasi-Lemon prosecuted the case on behalf of the government. The FBI investigated.

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