VAIL — Alberto Vilar has lashed out at prosecutors for trying to embarrass the attorney representing him and his co-defendant.
In a letter Friday to a U.S. District Judge, Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Naftalis said it appears attorney Vivian Shevitz is in an “intimate romantic relationship” with Gary Tanaka, Vilar’s co-defendant.
“This relationship, by all appearances, would impair Ms. Shevitz’s duty of loyalty to Vilar and cloud her judgment with respect to Tanaka,” the letter said.
Shevitz denied it in a response filed Monday morning, and Vilar lashed out, standing firmly with Shevitz.
“My lawyer could be involved with Attila the Hun and I would stay with her, she’s so damn good. This is just their latest below-the-belt dirty trick,” Vilar said in a phone interview from Manhattan. “I’ve had eight lawyers and this woman is 10 times better than all of them put together. These people are playing dirty. They’re trying to rid me of the one lawyer who has successfully worked for me. ... I think the prosecutors are trying to embarrass this woman.”
Naftalis wrote his letter to U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan in Manhattan. Vilar and Tanaka will be resentenced, and Sullivan will handle that. Naftalis said Tanaka and Shevitz have been living together since the fall of 2012 and that her representation of both defendants may be compromised.
Shevitz’s response to allegations
The case has been grinding along for almost a decade, and Shevitz has argued that Vilar’s original attorneys were incompetent. She was gloriously sarcastic in parts of Monday’s response.
“It is certainly refreshing that nearly 10 years after, the government has so much solicitude for the defendants’ rights to effective representation,” Shevitz wrote.
Tanaka, 70, is receiving treatment for jaw cancer and oral reconstruction, Shevitz said. She said she offered him a place to stay, as she did with one other client, an Israeli who was released on bail by the Second Circuit Court in 2008. Shevitz said she is 69, and that the “relationship” is not germane.
Shevitz has been fighting to get both Vilar’s and Tanaka’s 2008 convictions overturned. They are free on a $10 million bond.
Prosecutors say Vilar bilked up to $40 million from investors. Shevitz and Vilar continue to argue that those “losses” did not happen, and that his attorneys should have made that clear during the trial.
They argue that the government froze more than $50 million in 2005 at J.P. Morgan Chase, and there is more than enough money to repay the victims, but the government won’t release it.
Vilar said that, somehow, prosecutors calculate that a $20 million capital gain is the equivalent to a loss.
“I never stole one penny. There is not and never was one penny missing,” Vilar said. “They either didn’t do their research or they are lying.”
Vilar said federal prosecutors asked that he receive a 26-year sentence. He was sentenced to nine years in prison and was sent to federal prison in Fort Dix, New Jersey. Tanaka was sentenced to five years and served two and a half.
“Where was the government trying to protect my rights when they asked for a 26-year sentence? That’s a death sentence for someone my age. They got a nine year sentence, and that’s also a death sentence,” Vilar said.
Prosecutors say Vilar and Tanaka promised clients at Amerindo Investment Advisors Inc. high returns in seemingly safe “deposit accounts,” but lost millions of dollars investing in technology stocks.
On Aug. 30, a federal appeals court in New York upheld the convictions of both men, but said they needed to be resentenced because their punishments, including their prison terms, need to be revisited.
Vilar said he will not go quietly.
“I will continue to fight. They’ve had my money frozen for eight years, they’ve had me locked up, they’ve sued me for $100 million with no money missing. They’re doing everything possible to keep us from defending ourselves. They will have more dirty tricks,” Vilar said.
Vilar was a second-homeowner and philanthropist in the Vail Valley. He donated money to help build the Vilar Performing Arts Center, which is named after him.