The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged a Columbia, Md.-based financial adviser with misappropriating more than $1 million from 18 clients in the Washington area.

Steven B. Goldberg, head of Goldberg & Associates Financial Advisors Inc., collected $875,000 through the fraudulent sale of securities, the SEC said.

The funds were supposed to be invested in gold, real estate, commodities and a start-up company. Goldberg also allegedly diverted $185,000 of client money to pay for business operations and for personal use, the agency said.

The SEC said Goldberg and his companies, including Goldberg & Roth Financial Advisors Inc., defrauded clients from early 1987 through late 1989 by making false statements and omitting facts about recommended investments.

The agency also said that Goldberg failed to maintain proper financial records or provide proper accounting verification of investors' funds.

Clients have been unable to get their money back, according to an SEC lawyer working on the case.

The SEC outlined the charges in legal papers filed in an administrative proceeding against Goldberg. The charges could lead to the suspension of Goldberg's federal securities registration.

Goldberg, who filed for personal bankruptcy in October, declined to comment other than to say he is looking for a lawyer.

In recent months there has been a rising chorus of charges from Congress and consumer groups that the government fails to adequately regulate financial planners and advisers.

By one congressional estimate, consumers lose $200 million a year from bad or fraudulent investment advice.