Dominelli Gets 20-Year Term for Swindling

Associated Press

A federal judge today sentenced financier J. David Dominelli to 20 years in prison for masterminding a multimillion-dollar investment swindle.

The sentencing came 17 months after the forced bankruptcy of La Jolla-based J. David & Co. and its affiliates, the money trading and investment network Dominelli founded in 1979.

“It boggles the mind, the nature and extent of the fraud that was perpetrated. Your actions impacted the lives of many people in this community. It changed their lives forever,” U.S. District Judge William B. Enright said in sentencing Dominelli.

He also ordered Dominelli to pay restitution to the estimated 1,000 investors who lost about $80 million. Dominelli, who was convicted of four felony counts of fraud and tax evasion, must also pay more than $2 million in back taxes.


Prison in Pleasanton

Enright recommended that Dominelli serve his time at the Federal Correctional Institution in Pleasanton, the same Northern California facility where newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst had been held on a bank robbery conviction.

Dominelli, 44, admitted in March to fabricating his image of a savvy money trader to lure clients to his once-powerful J. David & Co. firm, which was forced into bankruptcy in February, 1984, by disgruntled investors.

Dominelli appeared pale and wore the same rumpled tan suit that had become a sort of trademark during previous court appearances.


The financier, who has difficulty speaking because of a stroke he suffered while in prison, declined Enright’s offer to make a statement before sentencing. However, defense lawyer Gilbert Athay asked the judge to impose a 13-year term.

‘Sorrow and Heartache’

“Mr. Dominelli has . . . admitted his full involvement in this elaborate plan,” Athay told the judge. “He has apologized. He has expressed his sorrow and heartache for the damage he has caused.”

Athay said Dominelli, whom he described as the quintessential salesman, had already been punished to the fullest extent possible by the speech impediment and stroke.


Assistant U.S. Atty. Robert D. Rose said Dominelli deserved the maximum sentence. Dominelli already knew he could receive the 20-year sentence, the maximum he agreed to in a plea bargain last March.

Rose said that Dominelli had a consuming desire for wealth, prestige and power and that that desire led him to defraud the investors.