Note to investors: If someone claims to be a prophet and promises to win you money by predicting changes in the stock market, don't walk away. Run.
But unfortunately over 100 investors did not run away when Sean David Morton -- who dubbed himself "America's Prophet" -- asked for their money. In all, investors gave Morton more than $6 million in the hopes that he would use his alleged psychic abilities to win big money in the market.
Just last week Morton was charged with investor fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission. He has not responded to the complaint yet. E-mails and calls to his company's office were not returned.
"Sean David Morton lured scores of investors with his lies and then stole their hard-earned money," Sanjay Wadhwa, assistant director of the SEC's New York Regional Office, told ABC News. "Our enforcement action ensures that his money manager days are over."
Morton's case is just the latest example in a long line of Ponzi schemes, scams such as Bernie Madoff's that schemers use to pry money from unsuspecting investors.
After the financial crisis, federal regulators are now uncovering so many of these scams that last year one regulator said it was "ponzimonium out there."
Bart Chilton, commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, said in a statement last year that ponzi schemes are now "drying up like late summer cow pies" because investors are more vigilant about the scams and -- cash-strapped by the recession -- are requesting access to their investments.
"Redemptions are really a buzz kill for many ponzi scam operators," Chilton said.
Take the case of Morton.
In the summer of 2006 Morton started to solicit investors by promising to use his psychic abilities for investment guidance, the SEC alleged in their complaint.
"I have called all the highs and lows of the market, giving exact dates for rises and crashes over the last 14 years," Morton said in a newsletter to potential investors. Along with his newsletter, Morton also used his Web site, public speaking engagements and appearances on a nationally syndicated radio show to promote his Delphi Investment Group.
"Morton's self-proclaimed psychic powers were nothing more than a scam to attract investors and steal their money," said George Canellos, director of the SEC's New York Regional Office.
Morton promised to invest the funds with foreign currency trading firms, but only used about half the money for that purpose, while diverting some of the funds, including at least $240,000 into his and his wife's nonprofit religious organization, Prophecy Research Institute.
Morton, his wife Melissa Morton and three corporate entities that they own under the umbrella of the Delphi Associates Investment Group were the subject of the SEC charges.
In a biography posted on the Delphi Web site, Morton describes himself as "a natural psychic" and "intuitive consultant" and "investigative reporter." He claims to be able to predict "future occurrences and trends such as earth changes, political events, and stock market fluctuations."
"He has an astounding 'hit rate' or percentage of success," the Web site states.