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A Connecticut money manager is among seven people arrested in what federal authorities said was a wide ranging pump-and-dump scheme that allegedly netted the defendants millions of dollars.
Abraxas J. ("AJ") Discala is the CEO of Rowayton-based OmniView Capital, which describes itself as a privately held investment-advisory and merchant-banking firm. The company not yet responded to phone and email requests for comment.
Discala, 43, was in the celebrity spotlight in 2003 when he married "Sopranos" actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler. The couple separated in 2005. He was reportedly arrested in Las Vegas. His attorney, Joseph Tacopina, told CNBC, "Anyone who knows [Discala] is shocked by the accusations. I want to point out these are only accusations."
The defendants, who also include an OmniView managing director, an attorney who specialized in small cap companies, two stockbrokers, and executives of two of the companies whose stocks were allegedly manipulated, were due in federal court in Brooklyn later Thursday.
According to the 10-count criminal indictment unsealed Thursday, the alleged scheme involved manipulation of four microcap stocks: CodeSmart, which purportedly provided guidance to health-care providers on Medicare billing codes; Cubed, which claimed to offer "a cloud-based, three-dimensional, functional cube" application for mobile device users; purported movie studio StarStream Entertainment; and purported staffing provider The Staffing Group.
The indictment, and a parallel civil complaint by the SEC, says the defendants openly discussed the stock manipulation over text messages and phone calls.
"I'm the (expletive) brake and the gas," Discala allegedly boasted during a May 20 conference call.
The SEC, which has been cracking down on penny stock fraud, said it suspended trading in Cubed's stock on Thursday, "before Discala and the others could dump their shares on the market."
In the case of CodeSmart, the indictment says, Discala and his co-conspirators purchased 3 million unrestricted shares of the stock at 2.3 cents per share, hiding their ownership through so-called "nominee accounts." In 2013, the firm implemented a 2-for-1 stock split, and the pump of what was now 6 million shares began through press releases and allegedly false SEC filings.
A press release on OmniView's website dated Sept. 25, announcing the firm had been retained by CodeSmart as a "non-exclusive advisor," quoted Discala as saying CodeSmart "is addressing a meaningful portion of this multibillion dollar healthcare IT market."
The indictment says CodeSmart traded as high as $6.94 per share in 2013—nearly a 6,000 percent increase—before the defendants began dumping their shares.
—By CNBC's Scott Cohn