Convicted fraudster A.J. Discala makes Hail-Mary move to stay out of Jail for 11.5 years

This story had been updated
Convicted penny stock schemer A.J. Discala is making a last ditch effort to not report to prison for 11.5 years by asking the court to allow him to stay out on bail while he appeals his securities fraud case. Discala was convicted 3.5 years ago on eight felony counts of securities fraud and conspiracy, along with being accused of obstruction of justice, for his role in manipulating the stocks of multiple public penny stock companies. A.J has stated in multiple court motions and at his sentencing that he has been out of the finance business since his arrest but this reporter has learned that isn’t true. The EDNY has till January 7th to argue why he should report to jail immediately.

On December 8th, New York federal judge Eric Vitaliano issued one of the harshest sentences ever seen for a leader of a pump and dump stock ring. I was the only reporter to get a sit down interview with A.J. after his arrest in 2014. I have speculated A.J.’s delayed sentenced was likely a result of him cooperating in other cases but based on what I heard at his sentencing that doesn’t appear to be the case. Instead the justice system was just ridiculously slow to finish this case.

The EDNY prosecutor, Shannon Jones, pushed hard in a two hour hearing, attended by this reporter, for serious jail time detailing the fact that A.J. lied on the stand during his trial and has never apologized to the main street investors he and his crew cheated millions out of. Judge Vitaliano listened with a stoic face while A.J. cried during his statement begging for leniency blaming his actions on his upbringing and substance abuse additions. In the end the judge was unmoved by A.J.’s recent attempts to run charity work for disabled kids instead of working in the finance industry. AUSA Jones reminded the judge this charity work only started after he was convicted and seemed like a ploy to rehab his image for sentencing. A.J has stated in multiple court motions and at his sentencing that he has been out of the finance business since his arrest but this reporter has learned that isn’t true.

A.J’s wife, brother and sister attended the sentencing but his wealthy father and extended family were absent from the court room. None of the victims of his crimes who testified at trial showed up to make statements against him but one of the FBI agents who led the case was there. It’s the work of the FBI agents to obtain two wire taps of A.J.’s cell phone that he is challenging in his appeal saying the feds made misleading statements to get the wiretap. A.J. tried this move right before trial also and the judge shrugged off his attempt and allowed the recorded conversations and text messages to be heard as evidence.

There were gasp in the court room when Judge Vitaliano said, “As far as financial schemes go this was the top of the worst I have seen and Discala was its leader.” He talked about the arrogance A.J. displayed on the wire taps, his perjury at trial, and the fact that penny stock-main street investors are the people this court is designed to help and a low market value of these companies doesn’t mean the crimes were not significant.

A.J. had his head down in his hands for most of the Judge’s speech. He called A.J.’s conduct “horrible” and “his actions predatorial and ruthless!” In all the white collar sentencing I have witnessed this was the strongest voice for reason to holding penny stock fraudsters accountable. A.J.’s long sentence will now set precedent for future white collar securities fraud cases. A.J.’s own lawyer pointed out that even one of Jordon Belfort’s co-conspirators only got ten years for the Stratton Oakmont scheme in the 90s.

AUSA Jones once again argued after the sentence was handed down that A.J. is a flight risk because his wife Dounya Discala has ties to France. As a result he was put back on electronic monitoring and given a curfew until his report to prison date is determined. A.J.’s co-conspirator Darren Goodrich, a So-Cal broker and market maker, was the only other person from his crew that has been sentenced yet. Goodrich, who got 41 months of jail also appealed some of his sentencing, which was the amount of restitution he had to pay. During the appeal Goodrich still had to serve his time but eventually won the appeal and had his restitution reduced by at least $1 million.

According to A.J. it’s been Dounya, a former marketing manager for Ralph Lauren in Paris, who is the breadwinner for the family since his arrest. She now goes by her maiden name on her LinkedIn profile, In 2014 after A.J.’s arrest Dounya was suddenly working on a small cap company, BevRAGE and raising money for it, which is a skill set A.J. has. I told by at least two business people in 2016 that A.J. was still out there raising money for small cap companies. I asked the EDNY at the time if this was a bail violation and they wouldn’t answer.

One of the people who interacted with A.J. in 2016 was Jay Harkins a consultant in the beverage industry. He told me in May 2016 that at first he didn’t realize A.J. Discala was the architect of the deal. Harkins said, “Dounya ( his wife) incorporated a business called ‘MB2’ in November 2015 and is now the CEO of a company called BevRage, which has Michael Loeb and a handful of others invested in it. AJ is all over it.” When asked what A.J. was actually doing on the transaction Harkins said, “One of the clients that my old company, Blackheath Beverage Group, LLC, has is Eastside Distilling – their symbol is $ESDI. Lots of solid proof that he is negotiating stock vs cash with them for compensation to Blackheath.”

This month I reached out to Harkins again and shared A.J.’s verdict. He told me, “My experience with AJ was with a private company that he squirmed into by claiming he would be able to fund it if I was removed as CEO. It got shutdown 4 months later. His shenanigans cost me my business, almost 30 people their jobs, and quite a few years of depression for me. For the first time in my life, I now understand what it feels like to see some justice served.”

A.J. and Dounya Discala would not respond to comment about Harkins statements. Discala’s attorneys also would not respond to questions about his bail restrictions.

I emailed AUSA Shannon Jones after I heard from Harkins asking the EDNY to once again clarify A.J.’s bail restrictions. She refused to answer what should be public knowledge. The press man for EDNY, John Marzulli, was also aloof sending me a hearing transcript from 2014 where the EDNY argued for A.J. to not work in the securities business and have to check in with probation anytime he wanted to take a meeting. I reached the AUSA who made this argument who his now with the South Florida DOJ and he said he couldn’t remember what A.J.’s final bail restrictions were. The judge’s order filed in PACER only says there were modifications, one of which I know was the removal of the ankle bracelet, but then the order doesn’t explain what the final outcome was.

The EDNY now has one last argument to win which is how much A.J. will be forced to pay in what is called restitution. They are asking for at least $16 million even though the trial evidence showed A.J. only made a few million in profits off the stocks he was charged with. There are multiple other stock schemes A.J. executed according to the FBI wire tape warrant report but they don’t count for restitution because they did not end up as part of the EDNY charging documents. If the judge orders double digit millions in restitution it would go directly back to the victims of the companies at the heart of A.J’s trial which are mainly investors in a company called CodeSmart.

The EDNY final argument is over about a million dollars raised for a company called Cubed as a private placement before the stock was trading. After A.J.’s arrest the Banking Commission for Connecticut jumped on his case and brought an enforcement action for his role in the private placement because he was soliciting funds as an unregistered investment advisor and never actually gave the investors any stock certificates. The CT banking commission said Dounya Discala was involved in collecting those payments but did not bring the action against her. They also talked about how A.J. would use Dounya’s name on bank accounts to hold investors money or trade in. The FBI wire tapes and search warrant detailed A.J. talking to Dounya about taking money out of their bank accounts for reasons Dounya “wasn’t going to like”. The FBI says that money was used to pay kickbacks to some of the brokers A.J. used to help with the stock manipulation scheme.

It’s unclear how A.J. would be able to pay $16.346 million in restitution after over a decade in jail (A.J. would be over 60 when he gets out) if he is not working in a high paying opportunity field like Wall St. Well that is unless Dounya is working as a nominee for him. A.J. was previously married to Sopranos actress, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, and acted as her manager for a time. Like the Wolf of Wall St, Jordon Belfort, he could always try to sell some kind of movie rights to his story. But on the face of things a long jail sentence is likely the only justice his victims are going see.

UPDATE January 25 2022: The EDNY has filed a motion asking for NO bail while A.J. litigates his appeal. Their logic is AJ could still be a flight risk since Dounya has told pre-trial services if A.J. is in jail she will have to go back to France to live with her family because she can’t afford to support herself and their two daughters. Additionally, the EDNY points out that while AJ’s financial affidavit shows he hardly has any money left they question how he can keep hiring high priced lawyers included paying the most recent one at Patterson Belknap to go through a likely fruitless appeal.

As of today A.J. is required to report to federal prison on February 7, 2022 and currently wears an ankle bracelet. But yesterday his attorney is now trying another hail-mary move by asking the judge to delay that date by 30 days because the bureau of prison hasn’t told him which prison he is going to report to.

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Comments

  1. He has still not reported to prison. Jail seems more like day camp to me. Purely optional. “Maybe I’ll go to prison if I feel like it.”

  2. Didn’t he have three and half years to appeal his conviction? Why the last two-minute scramble now? I get that he doesn’t want to go to prison but come on already and start paying your debt to society and your victims. He seems totally unrepentant. And, yes, he seems to have access to cash somehow. Mattress?

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