A New York advisor told clients he would invest in "safe" munis but lost their money on options trades instead, SEC says.

Securities regulators filed charges Thursday against a financial advisor in New York accused of stealing at least $20 million from clients to fund his own accounts and use the money for “highly unprofitable” options trading.

The SEC alleges that Michael J. Oppenheim abused his role at JMorgan (JPM), and persuaded some clients to withdraw millions of dollars. He promised them he would purchase “safe and secure municipal bonds on their behalf,” according to the SEC. 

“Instead, Oppenheim bought himself cashier’s checks and deposited them into his own brokerage account or his wife’s account that he controlled. Almost immediately after each theft and deposit, Oppenheim allegedly embarked on sizable trading of stocks and options including Tesla (TSLA), Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG) and Netflix (NFLX),” the SEC explained in a press release. 

The advisor usually “lost the entire amount of each deposit,” the regulators add.

When his accounts had a positive cash balances, he allegedly wired money to bank accounts in his or his wife’s name. “At least one outgoing wire was used to pay off a portion of his mortgage,” the SEC explained.

According to FINRA BrokerCheck, Oppenheim cut his teeth in the business at Merrill Lynch (BAC), starting in 1998. He then moved to Prudential Securities, Chase Investment Services and Wachovia (WFC) between 1999 and 2004, before returning to Chase. He later moved from Chase to J.P. Morgan Securities in 2012. (JPMorgan and Chase merged in 2000).

“We allege that Oppenheim promised his customers that he would invest their money in safe and secure investments, but he seized their funds and aggressively played the stock market in his own accounts,” said Amelia A. Cottrell, associate director of the SEC’s New York regional office.

— Check out JPMorgan Profit Rises 12% on Gains From Stock, Bond Trading on ThinkAdvisor.