High-Profile Arts Patron Guilty of 12 Fraud Counts
Alberto Vilar cheated investors to pay debts, fund opera companies
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 20, 2008 8:41 AM CST
The Metropolitan Opera in New York. Alberto Vilar, the opera's most visible benefactor, was convicted of cheating investors through his company, Amerindo Investment Advisors.   (©raybdbomb)
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(Newser) – Alberto Vilar, the investment banker and one of the world's most generous opera patrons, was convicted yesterday on 12 counts of fraud, Bloomberg reports. Vilar told investors that he was putting their money in safe, government-backed assets; in fact, he bought risky tech stocks on margin, which quickly tanked. Vilar also defrauded clients by using their money to pay off other investors and to fulfill his many charitable contributions.

Before his arrest in 2005 Vilar was giving millions to hospitals, educational institutions, and arts organizations—most notably the Metropolitan Opera in New York, where he always sat in the same front-row seat. He failed to make good on his many pledges to those nonprofits, despite their christening of new buildings and programs with the Vilar name. A co-defendant, Gary Tanaka, was convicted on 3 of 12 counts.