Florida man gets prison time for defrauding West Virginia churches of $5 million

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — A Florida man will spend time in prison for defrauding West Virginia’s churches, pastors and others of nearly $5 million dollars.

U.S. Attorney Bill Ihlenfeld

Phillip Conley, 38, of Jacksonville, Fla., was sentenced Friday to 87 months in prison. The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Bill Ihlenfeld, Northern District of West Virginia.

“He was very manipulative and he was very persuasive,” Ihlenfeld said in a video message. “He was able to ingratiate himself with the community in places like Morgantown, Charleston and other parts of the region and convince people that he was a very successful investment advisor.”

Conley portrayed himself as an investment advisor even after his broker’s license was suspended in Dec. 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.

The victims include pastors, church congregants, lawyers, small business owners and other sophisticated people in Charleston, Parkersburg and Morgantown, Ihlenfeld said.

“These were people who were intelligent who were people of means, people that were otherwise successful in their lives, so it was a wide variety of people who were victimized by Mr. Conley,” he said.

Conley spent the stolen money on private jets, designer clothes, fine dining, jewelry and housing and living expenses.

“Everyone believed that this guy was a legitimate successful investment advisor and they wanted to put their money with him,” Ihlenfeld said.

The scam resulted in Conley robbing investors of their life savings. Ihlenfeld said Conley spent the spent the money that he stole on things that aren’t tangible.

“There’s not real estate, there aren’t automobiles, there aren’t investment accounts that we can go seize, liquidate and turn back over to the victims,” he said.

Ihlenfeld said Conley will be required to make restitution upon his release from prison.

“It’ll take a very long time for him to ever pay back nearly $5 million to these victims and I doubt that he actually ever will,” he said.

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