November 19, 2008 / 5:21 PM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 2-U.S. jury finds money manager Vilar guilty of fraud

(Adds quotes, details on verdict; adds byline)

By Grant McCool

NEW YORK, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Alberto Vilar, a money manager who rode the dot-com tech stocks boom and donated millions to the arts, was found guilty of fraud and money laundering by a U.S. jury on Wednesday.

Vilar’s partner in the now-defunct Amerindo Investment Advisers Inc, Gary Tanaka, was found guilty of securities fraud, but not guilty of money laundering by the same jury in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

Vilar’s attorney, Herald Price Fahringer, told reporters he would appeal the verdict on behalf of his client, who looked dejected in court as the verdict was read on the fourth day of deliberations after an eight-week long trial.

“All we can say is that we are deeply disappointed by the jury’s verdict, and that we intend to appeal,” Fahringer said. “We expect to be fully vindicated on appeal.”

The government argued Amerindo invested in risky stocks against the wishes of clients, offering investors a sham product in guaranteed fixed-rate deposits. Prosecutors centered their case largely on one investor, heiress Lily Cates, who was an Amerindo client for 18 years.

They accused the partners of stealing $5 million from Cates, who is the mother of actress Phoebe Cates.

Vilar, 68, was found guilty of all 12 counts he faced, including conspiracy to commit securities fraud, securities fraud, money laundering, investment adviser fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud.

Tanaka, 65, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and one count of securities fraud. He was found not guilty of money laundering.

Both men, who are out on bail, face a maximum prison sentence of up to 20 years. Judge Richard Sullivan scheduled a bail hearing for Nov. 26, but no date for sentencing.

Vilar and Tanaka were arrested in May 2005. They pleaded not guilty in 2006 to charges of fraud and money laundering.

The business partners founded Amerindo and had offices in London, New York and San Francisco with $10 billion under management at its height with investments in Microsoft, Cisco, Intel and other technology stocks.

Prosecutors argued that after the tech bubble burst in October 2002, the partners were deep in debt and stole money from clients to pay their bills. These included paying a U.S. arts college to which Vilar had pledged money and to make mortgage payments on his New York apartment.

Vilar ranked high in the culture world for the millions he gave, but also fell short in promised donations to the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Los Angeles Opera, the Washington National Opera and other groups.

Amerindo Technology D Fund returned almost 250 percent in 1999 before the tech bubble burst.

Tanaka’s attorney Glenn Colton told reporters after the verdict that he intends “to pursue all post-trial remedies” but he did not specifically say whether that would include an appeal.

“While we respect the jury process, we think it is an inappropriate and improper result,” Colton said. (Additional reporting by Martha Graybow; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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