| NEW YORK, Sept 20
NEW YORK, Sept 20 A lawyer representing money
manager and arts patron Alberto Vilar in his criminal fraud case
appears to be in an "intimate, romantic relationship" with
Vilar's co-defendant, Gary Tanaka, federal prosecutors said on
The relationship may create a conflict of interest because
the lawyer, Vivian Shevitz, has been representing both men as
they prepare to be resentenced, the prosecutors said.
Shevitz has represented Vilar and Tanaka in court following
their 2008 convictions for promising clients at Amerindo
Investment Advisors Inc high returns in seemingly safe "deposit
accounts," when in fact they 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 prison terms of nine years
for Vilar and five years for Tanaka plus financial penalties,
were based in part on transactions that should not have counted.
In a letter on Friday to U.S. District Judge Richard
Sullivan in Manhattan, who will handle the resentencing,
Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Naftalis said Shevitz's
representation of both defendants may be compromised.
"Ms. Shevitz and Tanaka appear to have developed an
intimate, romantic relationship, with Tanaka and Ms. Shevitz
living together since the fall of 2012," Naftalis wrote. "This
relationship, by all appearances, would impair Ms. Shevitz's
duty of loyalty to Vilar and cloud her judgment with respect to
Shevitz did not immediately respond to phone and email
requests for comment.
Naftalis also identified a second possible conflict of
He said Shevitz previously argued that Vilar's trial lawyer
had been ineffective for failing to raise the issue of relative
guilt - in other words, which defendant was more at fault - and
that she might be unable to raise the issue now.
"Ms. Shevitz's personal relationship with Tanaka raises
serious questions about her ability to represent Vilar with
undivided loyalties, particularly in light of her belief that it
is in Vilar's interest to argue that Tanaka had greater
culpability," Naftalis wrote.
Naftalis suggested that the court address the matter by
asking Vilar and Tanaka whether they understood and wanted to
waive potential conflicts arising from the joint representation.
The issue of romantic relationships involving defendants has
also come up in the government's case against five former
employees of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC.
In that case, prosecutors on Aug. 8 asked a judge to exclude
evidence that various Madoff employees, including four of the
five defendants, were at times romantically or sexually involved
with one another, including one defendant who was in a "love
triangle" with convicted swindler Bernard Madoff himself.
The case is U.S. v. Vilar et al, U.S. District Court,
Southern District of New York, No. 05-cr-00621.