Local donor Alberto Vilar arrested on fraud charges
May 27, 2005
NEW YORK – Alberto Vilar, a wealthy philanthropist with close ties to the Vail Valley, was arrested Thursday on fraud charges and is being held without bail. Prosecutors said Vilar used money from an investor in his investing business “as a personal piggy bank” to pay personal expenses and make charitable donations.Vilar, a former Beaver Creek resident with a net worth of almost $1 billion, was accused in a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan with engaging in business practices that were fraudulent, deceptive and manipulative.”I hope it’s not true,” said Tony O’Rourke, executive director of Beaver Creek Resort. “He’s an outstanding individual who’s made big contributions to the Vilar Center and the Vail Valley. It’d be an absolute shame if these allegations proved to be true.”Vilar contributed about $8 million to the construction of the Beaver Creek performing arts center that bears his name, according to Ceil Folz, executive director of the Vail Valley Foundation.”We really aren’t in a position to speculate as to what may or may not have occurred,” Folz said. “We remain thankful for everything he’s done for us.”In addition to the Vilar Center, Vilar has contributed to Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival as well as the Ford Amphitheater and other local organizations.
“When you read a headline like that, you just don’t know,” Folz said. “Things will sort themselves out.”Last year Vilar was listed by Forbes Magazine as the 327th richest American on the Forbes 400 list. His net worth was listed at $950 million. Vilar has also sold three properties he owned in Beaver Creek and Edwards that were foreclosed on by local banks claiming $2.74 million was owed. He subsequently paid off what was owed. Arrest detailsU.S. Postal Inspector Cynthia M. Fraterrigo charged in the complaint that Vilar improperly used money from an individual who invested $5 million in Vilar’s firm, Amerindo Investment Advisors Inc.
She said the investment was deposited into a brokerage account used by Vilar “as a personal piggy bank to pay personal expenses and make charitable contributions, without the knowledge, consent or authorization of the victim.”Vilar, according to the complaint, has made charitable contributions of more than $200 million to entities including opera organizations around the world, medical institutions and his college alma mater, Washington and Jefferson College, among others.The complaint alleged that the victim, who invested $5 million, did so after Vilar advised the victim in June 2002 to invest in an Amerindo venture. The venture was designed to benefit from a U.S. government program promoting venture capital investment in small businesses.According to the complaint, Vilar suggested that the victim could earn about $250,000 per quarter.In addition to his philanthropy locally, Vilar has contributed to lyric arts companies and other causes worldwide, including the Metropolitan Opera, the Kirov Company in St. Petersburg, Russia, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and the National Jewish Hospital in Denver. Vilar started investing in technology stocks in the late 1960s. Within a few years, he told the Vail Daily in a 2002 interview, he had made his first $2 million. But it wasn’t until the 1980s, when he founded Amerindo Investment Advisors, that his fortune grew to an estimated $1 billion, Vilar said.
Amerindo was an early and very large investor in many of the successful technology companies of the last two decades, including Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco, Parametric Technology, America Online, Yahoo! and eBay.”I was richer than Bill Gates for a while,” Vilar said in that interview. In 2002, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens declared July 19 Alberto Vilar Day.Vail Daily reporters Alex Miller, Cliff Thompson and Veronica Whitney contributed to this story. Vail, Colorado