Congregation Con man: James Upshaw didn't need fancy performance charts in order to convince 144 people to entrust him with a combined total of $3.2 million — he just assured them his financial advice came directly from God. Upshaw, a thief with multiple convictions, made presentations at Chicago-area churches and elsewhere between 2001 and 2004, preaching “his special brand of investment gospel,” according to the Chicago attorney general's office. One of Upshaw's victims was an elderly woman with a rags-to-riches story: She had recently won more than $800,000 at a casino. Upshaw used the funds he took from his “clients,” in part, to make a down payment on a $1 million house in suburban Chicago.
Another Fraudulent Market-Timing Bust: In December, the Securities and Exchange Commission settled market-timing charges with Ameriprise, formerly American Express Financial Advisors (AEFA), for $15 million. (The NASD also fined the firm $12.3 million for the same conduct.) The SEC found that despite changes to house-brand AXP Fund prospectuses in January 2002 prohibiting market timing, AEFA allowed certain timers to continue operating for another six to eight months. Additionally, AEFA didn't take steps to prevent employees of the firm and related companies from market timing AXP funds through their 401(k) accounts.