Vilar co-defendant to seek new lawyer after US suggests romance

NEW YORK, Sept 24 Tue Sep 24, 2013 2:40pm EDT

NEW YORK, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Former money manager Alberto Vilar's co-defendant, Gary Tanaka, plans to seek a new lawyer after prosecutors said he may be in a romantic relationship with a lawyer who has been representing both men as they prepare to be resentenced for fraud.

On Friday, federal prosecutors said Tanaka's apparent "intimate, romantic relationship" with lawyer Vivian Shevitz, could create a conflict of interest and impair her duty of loyalty to Vilar, also known as an arts patron.

In a letter dated Monday to U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan in Manhattan, Shevitz said that while she is willing to represent both men, "Mr. Tanaka prefers that the court appoint another lawyer for him to help shoulder some of the load."

She also said the defendants understood what prosecutors called her "personal relationship" with Tanaka, 70, and any real or theoretical conflicts it created.

"The personal 'relationship' between us is not germane to the situation at hand except to the extent it affects both clients," she said. "Both (clients) are fully aware of the 'conflict-producing' circumstances of any septuagenarian (I am 69 years old) relationship that has developed."

Vilar and Tanaka were convicted in 2008 for having promised clients at Amerindo Investment Advisors high returns in seemingly safe "deposit" accounts, only to lose millions of dollars in technology stocks.

On Aug. 30, a federal appeals court in New York upheld the convictions, but ordered that the men be resentenced because their punishments, including prison time, were based in part on transactions that should not have counted.

The case is U.S. v. Vilar et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 05-cr-00621.