Thomas Rush and his wife, Diane, didn't know much about commodities when they won a year's worth of free financial-planning services in a fund-raising auction at West Friendship Elementary School in 1986.
The donor of the prize, Steven B. Goldberg, a one-time treasurer of the school's parent-teacher association, was persistent.
He promised them a 50 percent return on their $10,000 investment and called it a safe investment -- so safe that he had put his own money into it.
The Rushes never got their money back, and it is unlikely they will bid again at a school auction.
They are among 18 investors and clients allegedly bilked from 1984 to October 1989 by Mr. Goldberg and his company, Columbia-based Goldberg and Associates Financial Advisors Inc.
The state attorney general's security division alleges in a suit filed yesterday that investors loss about $700,000 through the sale of unregistered securities and stock, real estate schemes and even a phony gold transaction.
The state said Mr. Goldberg still offers financial planning in school raffles, as well as to doctors, lawyers and others, despite a 1990 order by the Securities and Exchange Commission barring him from serving as an investment adviser.
The attorney general's office is asking for a court order barring Mr. Goldberg from working in Maryland and requiring him to repay former clients.
Reached yesterday at his Columbia office, Mr. Goldberg denied that he is working as a financial adviser but declined further comment, saying he had not seen the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, which was filed in Howard County Circuit Court, the state said it discovered last fall that Mr. Goldberg was still in business when he approached a doctor at Sinai Hospital with a financial-planning offer.
When the doctor went home and told his wife, who has a different last name, he learned that she had once lost $10,000 in a real estate deal with Mr. Goldberg.
This latest lawsuit was the third filed by the attorney general's office since October in an effort to recover nearly $2 million in fraudulent securities schemes.
"Our office is bringing an increasing number of these cases because relatively recently we have beefed up our enforcement staff," said Terri L. Reicher, an assistant attorney general.
Besides serving as a PTA leader, Mr. Goldberg taught financial planning at Howard Community College, Ms. Reicher said.
According to the lawsuit, he used the money he obtained from clients or investors for his own business dealings, mostly real estate investments. Mr. Goldberg recently emerged from personal bankruptcy, the lawsuit said.
In one case, he told a Maryland couple he could buy them gold bars at a 20 percent discount, the suit said. The couple gave Mr. Goldberg $185,000.
Mr. Goldberg then claimed the money had been stolen from the trunk of his rental car in Toronto, where he had gone to pick up the gold, the lawsuit said. Toronto police said they never received a report of the theft, according to the suit.