Alberto Vilar, Arts Patron Convicted of Fraud, Dies at 80

Alberto W. Vilar, a cash supervisor with a love of opera who used his wealth to grow to be a conspicuous arts patron however fell out of favor when he reneged on his pledges and finally went to jail for defrauding shoppers, died on Saturday at his dwelling in Queens. He was 80.

His sister and solely speedy survivor, Carole Vilar Williams, mentioned the trigger was a coronary heart assault.

Mr. Vilar constructed his fortune — as soon as estimated at practically $1 billion by Forbes journal — by means of Amerindo Investment Advisors, a agency he co-founded that targeted on biotechnology and expertise shares. He used these riches to embark on a run of largess within the 1990s and early 2000s, donating — or pledging to donate — greater than $200 million to arts organizations.

For his $25 million pledge to the Metropolitan Opera’s endowment in 1998, Mr. Vilar’s identify was added to its third-level Grand Tier. (He additionally had a seat on the Met’s board.) For his $18 million pledge to the Royal Opera House in London in 1999, its Floral Hall turned the Vilar Floral Hall. For his $50 million pledge to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington in 2001, the middle deliberate to fund annual visits by the Kirov Ballet and Opera and to determine the Vilar Institute for Arts Management.

“He was not — how shall I say? — quiet about his giving,” Beverly Sills, the soprano and former Met chairwoman, advised The New York Times in 2005. “I think that was a turnoff for other members of the board, the fact that he wanted more attention.”

But Mr. Vilar defended his propensity for exchanging donations for naming rights, telling The Times in 2000: “When you have your name on a building, it says, ‘Here’s a world-class person who is giving money, and he chose us.’ Isn’t that a message?”

His time as a contemporary Medici, nevertheless, lasted solely so long as the expertise market continued to growth. In 1999, his Amerindo Technology Fund posted a return of 249 p.c. But the fund’s return fell by 64.eight p.c in 2000, 50.eight p.c in 2001 and 31 p.c in 2002. He started to fail to make funds on his pledges, just like the 1998 one to the Met, others to the Washington and Los Angeles Operas and one other to the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Many of his recipients, pissed off when the checks by no means arrived, eliminated his identify from locations of honor, a uncommon and humiliating incidence within the genteel world of arts philanthropy. Gone had been the foot-high steel letters from a wall on the Met’s Grand Tier. Menu covers together with his identify within the Grand Tier restaurant had been tossed out. “Vilar” was taken off the Floral Hall at Covent Garden. He paid solely a sliver of his promised donation to the Kennedy Center.

Mr. Vilar left the U.S. District courthouse in Manhattan in 2008 after his conviction on fraud prices.Credit…Katie Orlinsky for the New York Times

It all ended for Mr. Vilar in May 2005, when he was arrested and subsequently indicted on federal fraud and money-laundering prices that centered on the misuse of tens of millions of dollars invested with Amerindo by a number of shoppers. According to the indictment, Mr. Vilar in 2002 advised one shopper, Lily Cates, that her $5 million was to be invested in a government-backed fund supposed to draw enterprise capital to small companies.

But he by no means obtained authorities approval for the fund, and deposited Ms. Cates’s cash within the brokerage account of an Amerindo entity in Panama. Soon, $1 million of the cash was wired to an account of Mr. Vilar’s at Chase Manhattan Bank. He shortly used the cash to meet pledges to his alma mater, Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania, and to the American Academy in Berlin, and to pay payments from a caterer and a dishwasher restore service.

Another $three.1 million was wired from the Panama account to a monetary establishment in Luxembourg. The criticism mentioned that Mr. Vilar had then funneled the final of Ms. Cates’s funding into private and offshore accounts.

Before his trial started in 2008, Mr. Vilar mentioned that the federal government wouldn’t have the ability to show its case.

“She made millions with the firm, and I had complete authorization to invest her money,” he advised The Times, referring to Ms. Cates, the mom of the actress Phoebe Cates. He mentioned she later “got a bee in her bonnet about something” and requested that her cash be returned.

“Next thing I know,” he added, “she files a complaint that we had stolen her money.”

Prosecutors argued that Amerindo had gambled with shoppers’ cash in risky expertise shares as a substitute of the protected investments that they had been promised. A jury discovered Mr. Vilar responsible on all 12 counts that he confronted. It discovered his former accomplice in Amerindo, Gary A. Tanaka, responsible on three counts.

In 2010, Judge Richard Sullivan of U.S. District Court in Manhattan sentenced Mr. Vilar to 9 years in jail.

“You made use of investors’ assets as if they were your own,” he advised Mr. Vilar at the sentencing. “This kind of behavior just can’t be tolerated.”

Mr. Vilar in 2005 in his 25th-floor luxurious duplex condominium at the United Nations Plaza overlooking the East River. Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

Albert William Vilar Jr. was born on Oct. four, 1940, in East Orange, N.J. (not Havana, as he generally claimed). Albert Sr. was a Cuban-born govt of a sugar firm that had places of work in Manhattan and Puerto Rico. His mom, Margaret (Walsh) Vilar, was a homemaker.

Mr. Vilar advised The New Yorker in 2006 that he and his household moved to Puerto Rico when he was 7 and that he had attended grade college and highschool there. He backed off claims that he had lived in Cuba and that his household had fled after Fidel Castro got here to energy.

As a boy, Albert Jr. (who added an ‘o’ to his given identify throughout his enterprise profession) was fascinated by classical music, however his desires of being a conductor had been discouraged by his father, he mentioned. He studied economics at Washington & Jefferson. After two years within the Army, he labored at Citibank and Boston Company, an funding administration agency, then as a cash supervisor in Kuwait.

He and Mr. Tanaka began Amerindo within the 1980s. At its peak, the agency managed as a lot as $10 billion for a broad swath of shoppers.

Mr. Vilar’s wealth afforded him an opulent life-style. He owned a number of houses, together with a 25th-floor luxurious duplex condominium at the United Nations Plaza overlooking the East River. It had a Steinway child grand piano, a bronze statue of the kid Mozart with a violin, miniature facsimiles of the Met’s crystal chandeliers hanging above his eating room desk, and frescoes that had been copies of the rococo work in Salzburg’s Mozarteum live performance corridor. He mentioned he had deliberate to construct a 70-seat auditorium for musical performances on the ground beneath.

Mr. Vilar was proud of his front-row seat at the Met — A101. And he did give away substantial quantities. When his funds had been nonetheless reaping massive returns, he donated $11.eight million to the Met between 1990 and 2002, largely to pay for productions of “Cosi fan tutte,” “Fidelio,” “La Traviata,” “Le Nozze di Figaro” and “La Cenerentola.”

He misplaced an enchantment of his conviction in 2013. The subsequent yr, Judge Sullivan added a yr to his sentence, saying that Mr. Vilar and Mr. Tanaka had taken actions to stop victims of his crimes from being repaid.

After his launch from jail in 2018, Mr. Vilar lived on Social Security in his Queens house. His sister mentioned that he had been writing his autobiography.

His lawyer, Vivian Shevitz, mentioned that Mr. Vilar had hoped that the federal government would launch frozen Amerindo monies in order that he may acquire a pension.