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Is He Selling You a Stock? Or a Big Fat Lie?

How to tell a financial adviser from a scam artist.
Bernard Madoff in 2009.
Photographer: JIN LEE/BLOOMBERG NEWS

Gaeton Della Penna met many of his clients through his church. The Sarasota, Fla., financial adviser took their $3.8 million and promised safe investments with returns of at least 5 percent a year.

Instead, in May 2014, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged him with using some of the money on mortgage payments for his 10,000-square-foot home. Much of the rest was lost in risky trades. A year later, Della Penna pleaded guilty to running a Ponzi scheme. Last week, he was sentenced to almost six years in jail.