Monitoring ordered for philanthropist

November 26, 2008 5:01:41 PM PST
Philanthropist Alberto Vilar was ordered to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet on his ankle until he is sentenced on conspiracy fraud charges after a judge expressed disappointment Wednesday that he sometimes didn't answer the phone when a court officer called. U.S. District Judge Richard J. Sullivan stiffened the terms of Vilar's $10 million bail after complaints from a pre-trial officer who telephones Vilar between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. each day to make sure he complies with a court-ordered curfew.

The officer said the 68-year-old Vilar failed to answer two or three times a week, sometimes later explaining that he was sleeping, didn't hear it ring or couldn't get to the phone.

Sullivan did not immediately rule on a request by federal prosecutors that Vilar's bail be revoked altogether because his conviction made it more likely that he might flee. Vilar's lawyers say he's a safe bet to stay in his Manhattan apartment until the March 20 sentencing.

Sullivan asked both sides to submit additional arguments by next week before he will rule.

Vilar and a co-defendant, Gary Alan Tanaka, were convicted last week of conspiring to commit various frauds, including cheating the mother of actress Phoebe Cates out of a $5 million investment.

Sullivan said Tanaka can remain free on bail, though he also ordered electronic monitoring for him after learning that he too sometimes did not answer his phone when the pre-trial officer checked in on him. Tanaka was acquitted of all but three of 12 charges he faced in the case.

Both men face up to 20 years in prison on the most serious charges brought against them for swindling some investors in Vilar's San Francisco-based investment company, Amerindo Investment Advisors Inc.

Amerindo, an early investor in companies including Microsoft Corp. and Google Inc., ran into trouble after 2000 with the collapse of technology stocks that had brought it spectacular returns for some clients for two decades.

Prosecutors said Vilar lied to clients by promising safe and steady returns through conservative investments. He actually put their money in risky technology stocks, the government said.

Forbes magazine once said Vilar was worth $950 million, but that was before the collapse in technology stocks.

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