Philanthropist and investor Alberto Vilar was sentenced today to nine years in prison.
Once a donor to many cultural institutions worldwide, most notably to opera houses, 69-year-old Vilar was convicted in November 2008 on all 12 counts of fraud and money laundering. Following the conviction, Vilar was deemed a flight-risk and was imprisoned to await his sentencing.
The investor accepted the blame and pleaded for leniency in a 45-page letter to Manhattan judge Richard Sullivan, writing, “I am not in good health. I ask your honor to grant me time outside of prison during the few years left to me.”
Sullivan said Vilar, whom he called a complicated man of “tremendous generosity,” needed to be punished to send the message to those entrusted with managing money that fraud will not be tolerated.
Vilar was also fined $25,000 and ordered to pay $21.9 million in restitution and forfeit more than $22 million.
Forbes magazine estimated Vilar’s worth to be $950 million prior to the collapse of technology stocks in 2000. When the markets fell, Vilar began to abandon promised donations. In response, among other organizations, the Metropolitan Opera took his name off its grand tier and London’s Royal Opera House removed his surname from its Floral Hall.
Villar was convicted of cheating $40 million from investors in his now defunct company, Amerindo Investment Advisors Inc. Among those Vilar was accused of defrauding was Lily Cates, the mother of actress Phoebe Cates.
Vilar objected to a prosecutor’s claim that he was not sorry for his actions.
“I don't know where the government gets the idea I am not responsible or remorseful,” he said. “I deeply regret any inconvenience that our 14,000 clients might have suffered.”
His former partner and co-defendant at trial, Gary Tanaka, 66, was sentenced to five years in prison for his lesser role.