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Once a billionaire, now a prisoner
Scandal dogs tech investor Alberto Vilar, accused of fleecing investors out of millions of dollars.
May 30, 2005: 2:45 PM EDT

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Alberto Vilar's nine lives may be through.

The prominent U.S. investor -- who regained wealth lost in the 1990s tech collapse and was clawing his way back into the upper echelons of billionaire philanthropy -- has been arrested for defrauding investors of million of dollars.

According to court documents, Vilar was charged Friday in the Southern District Court of New York for pocketing an individual's investment worth $5 million for his personal use.

He has pleaded not guilty and is being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, unable to pay his $10 million in cash for bail, the New York Times reported Monday.

This could be a final nail in the coffin for the head of Amerindo Investment Advisors Inc., who seemed well on his way to putting scandal and embarrassment behind him.

Vilar, who is ranked 327th on Forbes' list of wealthiest Americans and is estimated to have a personal net worth of over $950 million, has gained recognition in recent years for his philanthropy to arts and educational institutions.

But his reputation was tarnished after his primary technology fund lost more than 80 percent of its value and he was forced to postpone millions of dollars in pledges to the arts institutions he had famously donated to, including the Metropolitan Opera and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

That handful of difficult years had all but faded for the former refugee from the Cuban revolution, with tech shares advancing on the stock market and a return to philanthropy, until last week's arrest.

The complaint, which was lodged by United States Postal Inspector Cynthia M. Fraterrigo, also charged Gary Tanaka, the executive vice-president and one of the founders of Amerindo Investment Advisors. The federal complaint noted that Tanaka fraudulently used investors' money for the purchase of thoroughbred horses.

Amerindo, a San Francisco-based investment fund which started in 1985, historically has invested in Internet companies as well as firms in the technology and biotech industries.

According to the complaint filed against Vilar, Amerindo had $1.2 billion in assets as of July 15, 2004.

CNN/Money's phone calls to Amerindo's San Francisco and New York offices late Friday afternoon were not immediately returned.

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Amerindo Investment Advisors
Alberto Vilar
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