The Day – Once worth nearly $1 billion, lawyers seek redress for ‘broken’ convicted philanthropist


NEW YORK (AP) — Once worth nearly $1 billion, opera-loving philanthropist Alberto Vilar is seeking financial relief from what his lawyers describe as a destitute existence after he was released from prison in 2018.

Vilar’s attorneys told a Manhattan federal judge in a letter Thursday that Vilar was “a broken, penniless, destitute individual.” They said he slept on a couch in a shared studio and was dependent on a monthly Social Security check of $2,200. His lawyers demanded that he no longer be required to pay hundreds of dollars a month for restitution, which they said they were mostly happy with.

Vilar, 80, born in New Jersey and of Cuban descent, was once described by Forbes magazine as worth around $950 million before the tech stock crash of 2000 ruined his good fortune. San Francisco-based investment firm, Amerindo. Investment Advisors Inc.

The investor complaints drew the attention of federal prosecutors who said Vilar and a business partner repeatedly lied to their clients from 1986 to 2005 promising safe and steady returns while wasting millions of dollars in risky bets on tech stocks.

Vilar was sentenced to nine years in prison after his 2008 conviction for conspiracy and investment advice, mail and wire fraud.

Upon sentencing, Vilar was ordered to forfeit more than $22 million and to pay $21.9 million in restitution and a $25,000 fine. The exact amount still owed to victims of the fraud is unclear.

It was a dizzying fall for a man whose charity was legendary. He has donated up to $225 million to opera houses and millions more to cultural and medical organizations around the world.

After his arrest in 2005, he could no longer honor his pledges. The Royal Opera House in London removed its name from the building’s atrium, the Metropolitan Opera removed its name from its main floor and the Salzburg Festival in Austria removed its picture from its programmes.

The attorneys wrote that Vilar pays $600 a month for a studio apartment in Long Island City that he shares. With sick legs and other medical conditions that restrict his mobility, he rarely leaves his small apartment, they said.

His $2,200 Social Security check is cut by hundreds of dollars when 15% is automatically subtracted to satisfy judgments, the attorneys wrote.

Most of the rest of the check goes to food, $400 in medical bills, medication and a monthly payment for hearing aids, the attorneys said. They said he owed about $15,000 in medical bills and that he had stopped taking certain medications because he could no longer afford them.

Prosecutors have yet to file a response to Vilar’s lawyers’ request. Prosecutors declined through a spokesperson to comment.

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