Vilar spoken of fondly in Vail Valley
VAIL, Colorado Opera-loving philanthropist and Vail-arts benefactor 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 safe. Instead, the men poured millions of dollars into risky technology stocks that later crashed, prosecutors said.Lily Cates, the mother of the actress, testified that $5 million of her money was lost improperly by Vilar and co-defendant Gary Alan Tanaka.Lawyers for both men had insisted that they were innocent and never intended to cheat or mislead anyone.Vilar was convicted of conspiracy to commit securities, investment adviser, mail and wire fraud; and 11 other counts. Tanaka, 65, was convicted of conspiracy as well as securities and investment adviser fraud, but was acquitted on nine other counts.Both defendants reacted calmly to the verdicts and were allowed to remain free, though prosecutors sought a hearing next week to address bail conditions. No sentencing date was set. The men could face up to 20 years in prison.Herald Price Fahringer, Vilars lawyer, promised to appeal. We are deeply disappointed in the jurys verdict, he said.Tanakas lawyer, Glenn Charles Colton, called the verdict an inappropriate and improper result.
Vail and Beaver Creek, where Vilar had a home, were among his beneficiaries. He donated $7 million to rebuild 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.Vail Valley Foundations president Ceil Folz said Vilar made good on his contributions to those two locations which were made early in his philanthropic days. But it also poses a bit of a conondrum for the foundation and the area, where Vilar poured so much money in. Does Vilars name stick at Beaver Creeks world-class performing center? Folz said the foundation, along with Beaver Creek Resort Company, will take the situation under advisement. With the two groups certainly well try to best understand whats best for the community and head in that direction, she said. Beaver Creeks executive director Tony ORourke said since Vilar fulfilled his agreement, hes earned to keep his name at the resort. Plus, just because Vilar was convicted Wednesday doesnt spell the end of the case. Theres still an appeal process, ORourke said.Im sure hell probably appeal his decision. Until thats completed its a moot point, he said, adding that its not up to the resort to pass judgments on people in the community. They have to meet their makers and it aint going to be us. We all make mistakes and the key is to forgive and forget.
The verdict represented a spectacular fall for Vilar, who gave away millions of dollars to cultural institutions and opera houses. Just months after his May 2005 arrest, Londons Royal Opera House said it had removed his name from the buildings atrium after he failed to honor a pledge.Vilar became wealthy by handling money for others through his San Francisco-based investment company, Amerindo Investment Advisors Inc., which he started in 1980. Forbes magazine said Vilar was worth $950 million before the collapse in technology stocks.But the descent of technology stocks after 2000 caused massive losses for Vilars customers as well as his own portfolio of assets.Prosecutors said Vilar kept up his large donations even as his assets shrunk. They said he spent $500,000 of Cates money on a donation to his alma mater, Washington & Jefferson College, based in Washington, Pa.Fahringer said Vilar has contributed more than $200 million to entities including cultural and medical organizations across the globe.Cates, a 70-year-old former model, who had invested successfully with Vilar before, recalled his enthusiasm before she turned over the contested $5 million.He said the interest you are getting is peanuts compared to what we will make, she said.
While Vilar took a beating in the courtroom Wednesday, the Vail Valley wont soon forget what he did for the area, which many believe cant be diminished because of his recent troubles. Obviously its a sad situation and certainly we feel badly for all involved, Folz said. Were thankful for everything Alberto Vilar gave to this community. You cant look upon those things without gratefulness.ORourke, whose initial reaction to the conviction was that he was bummed, said hell miss working with the generous and passionate resident who elevated Beaver Creek to world-class status. Hes a very decent guy. He did a lot for the Beaver Creek community, ORourke said. Its a shame these legal issues have clouded his reputation. All I can do is reflect on the relationship we had with him and it was good and professional. He did a lot of good.Staff writer Dustin Racioppi contributed.