Convicted money manager to stars avoids repeat trip to U.S. prison

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former money manager to Hollywood stars who served prison time for operating a $10 million investment fraud avoided another trip to the slammer Thursday, even as a Manhattan federal judge said she was “deeply troubled” by his latest crime.

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Dana Giacchetto, a former investment advisor to A-listers such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz, was sentenced to two years probation, including four months home confinement for using a stolen credit card to spend more than $9,000.

U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in Manhattan said she nearly decided to not give the non-prison sentence as prosecutors pushed for up to seven months for his latest, although smaller, financial crime.

“I’m deeply troubled by this kind of crime with this kind of history,” she said.

Giacchetto, 52, pleaded guilty to fraud in 2000 for taking money from accounts of non-celebrity clients to finance a high-flying lifestyle and give extraordinary returns or mask losses to star clients.

He was sentenced in February 2001 to 4-3/4 years in prison, although he was released early in July 2003, records show.

In the latest case, brought in February, prosecutors said Giacchetto used a stolen American Express card number over two months in 2013 on airline services, liquor and food delivery and dentistry, among other things.

Ronald Fischetti, his lawyer, said the credit card had belonged to an investor in a Las Vegas play called “Stripped.” During a hearing Thursday, he pushed for a light sentence given the small size of the amounts at issue.

Megan Gaffney, a prosecutor, called that argument “bizarre.”

“These two offenses, while not similar in scale, are similar in character,” she said.

Giacchetto, dressed in jeans and a blue t-shirt, said he was “very troubled being in front of you your honor,” and said he regretted what he did.

“I don’t want to go to jail again,” he said.

McMahon said she did not understand why he committed a crime again, but agreed to a non-prison sentence plus an order that he pay $9,983 in restitution to American Express.

She warned him against violating his two-years probation, noting her courtroom had two doors, one with an exit sign that visitors can use to leave freely, and the other intended for incarcerated defendants.

“Trust me, I’ll send you out the no-exit door,” she added.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York. Editing by Andre Grenon