NEW YORK – Opera-loving philanthropist Alberto Vilar was convicted on fraud charges Wednesday for swindling investors, including the mother of actress Phoebe Cates, out of millions of dollars.
Federal prosecutors accused Vilar and a business partner of falsely telling investors their money would be safely invested. The government alleged that the men actually poured millions of dollars into risky technology stocks before they crashed.
Lily Cates, the mother of the actress, testified that $5 million of her money was lost improperly by Vilar and a co-defendant.
Defense attorneys insisted that Vilar was innocent and that he never intended to mislead anyone.
The charges included conspiracy to commit securities, mail, wire and investment fraud.
Vilar was known for giving away millions of dollars to cultural institutions and opera houses before he was arrested in May 2005. But in September of that year, London's Royal Opera House said it had removed his name from the building's atrium after he failed to honor a pledge.
Vail and Beaver Creek, Colo., where Vilar had a home, were among his beneficiaries. He donated $7 million to rebuild a Beaver Creek theater, which was later named the Vilar Performing Arts Center. He also contributed $2 million toward revamping the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail.
Vilar earned hundreds of millions of dollars on investments in the 1990s as the stock market blossomed. Forbes magazine once said he was worth $950 million, but that was before the collapse in value of technology stocks.
The federal government said Vilar cheated investors through his company, Amerindo Investment Advisors Inc., and various related entities.
It said he misappropriated some of the investor funds for personal use, including donations to his alma mater, Washington & Jefferson College.