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The Worst Financial Advisors in America according to Think Advisor

10 Worst Financial Advisors according to Think Advisor, featured by top securities fraud attorneys, The White Law Group

Think Advisor: Worst Financial Advisors in America Updated 2023 

Think Advisor, an on-line investment news magazine, posted an article this week on the Worst Financial Advisors in America in 2023. The list includes financial advisors and brokers charged with various illegal activities including Ponzi schemes, elder fraud, evading the authorities,  and murder. 

According to the article, these offenders were gathered from news articles, from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and the SEC. Many of the fraudsters have been convicted, and some have charges still pending, according to the article. 

The following are reportedly the worst financial advisors, (and financial advisor imposters) in America. The White Law Group has current investigations on many of the following:  

Daryl Cohen, Morgan Stanley (See SEC Alleges Darryl Matthew Cohen Stole $1 Million from Clients) 

 In March 2023, Daryl Cohen, former advisor with Morgan Stanley, and three others were criminally charged with defrauding four professional basketball players of over $13 Million in two purported schemes.  From October 2017 through April 2020, Cohen allegedly used client funds, without their knowing, for personal expenses including to support his son’s amateur basketball program, for a home gym, and to pay back another client whose funds Cohen had misappropriated. Cohen also allegedly sold life insurance settlements to the clients for kickbacks to fund his home improvements. 

Brent Seaman, Accanito Equity  

In July 2023, The SEC charged Brent Seaman and entities he managed for fraudulently raising $35 million from at least 60 investors through an unregistered securities offering. Seaman allegedly promised high returns, describing investments as ‘safe’ and ‘guaranteed,’ targeting elderly investors connected to a Naples church. He reportedly claimed to invest in technology, currencies, and commodities, despite allegedly losing millions of investors’ funds. Seaman also allegedly misused funds for personal expenses and made Ponzi-like payments, violating broker-dealer registration provisions. 

Douglas Hawkins, Accelerated Wealth 

Douglas Hawkins, a former advisor and minister, was reportedly sentenced to 10 years in prison for various fraud charges related to investment advising in May 2023. He faced prison terms ranging from five to 20 years for fraud counts and was ordered to pay $1.6 million in restitution. Hawkins allegedly advised clients to invest in questionable real estate properties without disclosing crucial information, resulting in losses exceeding $2 million. The investigation involved the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Kentucky Department of Financial Institutions. 

Christopher Burns, Atlanta, GA 

Christopher Burns, a financial advisor from Atlanta accused of running a Ponzi scheme, was reportedly indicted by the Justice Department in April. He faces multiple charges including wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering. Burns reportedly disappeared in 2020 before providing documents to the SEC and hasn’t been seen since. He operated through various entities, allegedly promising investors safe loans to businesses but used their money to repay others and sustain his lifestyle. Authorities seek information on his whereabouts and urge potential victims to contact the FBI. Burns allegedly defrauded victims of at least $10 million, according to U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan.  

Randall Brian Kiefner, Morgan Stanley and Charles Schwaab 

Former broker Randall Brian Kiefner, previously associated with Morgan Stanley and Charles Schwab, was reportedly arrested in Florida and charged with 21 counts related to child pornography in April 2023. Kiefner, 60, entered a plea of not guilty during his initial court appearance on April 6. 

Andrew B. Woolworth Jr., Stifel Nicolaus 

In October, a former client and girlfriend of a Stifel Nicolaus advisor, Andrew B. Woolworth Jr., reportedly sued the broker-dealer, alleging the advisor physically abused her, including a violent incident where she was strangled. The individual claimed Stifel failed to warn her about the advisor’s abusive history, allowing her to assist in soliciting clients while unaware of his past. The lawsuit alleges negligence on the firm’s part for both failing to inform the individual and neglecting supervision. Andrew Baker Woolworth Jr., the advisor in question, is facing charges related to the incident. Both Stifel and Woolworth have yet to respond publicly to the allegations. Woolworth’s court date is set for May 16, 2024. 

Keith Todd Ashley, Parkland Securities 

Keith Todd Ashley, of Allen, Texas, in August 2023, has received a life sentence in federal prison for various crimes, including wire fraud, mail fraud, firearms violations, and bank fraud. Ashley, a former financial advisor with Parkland Securities, allegedly defrauded clients, diverted funds for personal use, and purportedly staged a murder to look like a suicide. He allegedly stole investment funds from a client, leading to the client’s murder in February 2020. Despite the death, Ashley purportedly tried to claim life insurance, access the victim’s bank account, and obtain an autopsy report. He was indicted in November 2020 and sentenced by U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant. U.S. Attorney Damien M. Diggs highlighted the relief and justice for the victim’s family, condemning Ashley’s actions as reprehensible. 

The Worst Financial Advisors in 2020

The following are reportedly the worst financial advisors, (and financial advisor imposters) in America in 2020. The White Law Group has current investigations on many of the following:  

Dain Stokes, LPL Financial ( see SEC Bars Financial Advisor Dain Stokes)

Ex-LPL Financial broker Dain F. Stokes of Fremont, New Hampshire, was barred by the SEC after he allegedly solicited $576,000 from three clients, claiming their funds would be used to invest in a fake project in Africa that singer Taylor Swift and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates were involved in.

Mark Hopkins, American Portfolios Financial Services (see Mark Hopkins, Former Michigan Advisor, Allegedly Steals more than $1 M from Investors)

Former Michigan advisor Mark L. Hopkins allegedly stole at least $1.15 million from at least five customers while he was registered with American Portfolios Financial Services , according to the SEC. Hopkins reportedly told his senior clients he was investing their funds in a local credit union’s investment program. The program was apparently a scam and Hopkins was purportedly depositing the clients’ funds into his own account at the credit union, according to the SEC.

Dean S. Mustaphalli, Mustaphalli Capital Partners Fund. ( see Broker Runs $6 million Hedge Fund)

Dean Mustaphalli of Queens, NY, allegedly ran a massive hedge fund scheme targeting elderly investors at the now-defunct Mustaphalli Capital Partners Fund. After pleading guilty to 22 felony charges, including grand larceny and securities fraud he was reportedly convicted and sentenced to 3-9 years in prison in October.

Frederick Stow, formerly with Raymond James (see Financial Advisor Frederick Stow Reportedly Charged with Defrauding Senior Veteran)

The SEC charged barred advisor Frederick Stow, with defrauding two senior citizens, including a World War II-era veteran, out of close to $1 million. The SEC alleged that Stow was intricately involved in the veteran’s personal and financial affairs and made unauthorized sales of securities from the veteran’s individual retirement account, purportedly transferring the proceeds to his own account.

Steven F. Brown, of Marina del Rey, California

Steven F. Brown, an accountant for a nonprofit organization, allegedly solicited investments in what turned out to be a $3.3 million Ponzi scheme, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. In September, he agreed to plead guilty to one criminal count of wire fraud.

James T. Booth, formerly with LPL Financial (see James T. Booth Broker Investigation)

Former financial advisor James Booth of Norwalk, Connecticut, was charged with an alleged multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme through his financial services firm, Booth Financial Services in June 219.

According to the indictment, Booth, 74, purportedly solicited money from over 40 clients of Booth Financial and falsely promised to invest their money in securities offered outside of their ordinary advisory and brokerage accounts.  Instead, he allegedly misappropriated nearly $5 million to pay his own personal and business expenses. He pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud and was sentenced to 42 months in prison, according to Think Advisor.

Paul Horton Smith Sr., eGate, LLC, Planning Services, Inc.

According to a criminal complaint, Paul Horton Smith Sr., a registered investment adviser, was arrested May 21, 2020, for allegedly scamming dozens of his clients, many of them elderly retirees, in a long-running Ponzi scheme worth more than $10 million. On Oct. 19, 2020, the SEC obtained a final judgment against Smith to pay disgorgement of $4.2 million in ill-gotten gains plus prejudgment interest of $383,059, and also ordered Smith to pay a civil penalty of $4.2 million, according to Think Advisor.

Matthew Piercey, Palo Cedro, California

Matthew Piercey allegedly ran a Ponzi scheme in which he was accused of defrauding investors out of about $35 million. He apparently tried to run from the FBI in November by entering Lake Shasta with a Yamaha Seascooter, according to various reports. He was reportedly arrested as soon as he emerged from the water, according to the article.

Christopher W. Burns, Berkeley Lake, GA

Investment adviser Christopher W. Burns disappeared last fall after allegedly scamming about 100 investors out of more than $5 million as part of a Ponzi scheme involving the sale of illegal promissory notes in the Atlanta area. The FBI is currently trying to find Burns, according to numerous reports.

Keith T. Ashley, formerly of Parkland Securities

Keith T. Ashley, Parkland Securities broker from Allen, Texas, allegedly scammed investors out of $1.1 million and was also charged with murdering a client, according to the police department in Carrollton, Texas. Detectives found evidence that Ashley “incapacitated, then murdered Seegan in an attempt to gain control of his finances,” according to Think Advisor.

Securities Fraud Attorneys

This information is all publicly available and provided to you by The White Law Group.

The White Law Group, LLC is a national securities fraud, securities arbitration, investor protection, and securities regulation/compliance law firm dedicated to helping investors in claims in all 50 states against their financial professional or brokerage firm. Since the firm launched in 2010, it has handled over 700 FINRA arbitration cases.         

Our firm represents investors in all types of securities related claims, including claims involving stock fraud, broker misrepresentation, churning, unsuitable investments, selling away, and unauthorized trading, among many others.  With over 30 years of securities law experience, The White Law Group has the expertise to help investors defrauded in securities and investment fraud attempt to recover their investment losses.   For more information, please visit our website, www.whitesecuritieslaw.com.        

For more information on the firm’s investigation please see: 

If you would like to speak to a securities attorney, please call the firm at (888)637-5510. For more information on The White Law Group please visit our attorney page.




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