The Instructive Tale of Alberto Vilar

If you cashed in during the boom times by taking shortcuts—or you made a fortune during the credit crisis by spreading misinformation—and you're wondering what your life will be like in a few years after the government investigation is complete and you're facing an indictment as long as your arm, you'd be well advised to take a look at the article in the Times today about Alberto Vilar, the disgraced financier who once presided over Amerindo Investment Advisors. Once worth $1 billion and one of the largest donors to the Metropolitan Opera (the Met later ripped out the plaque with Vilar's name on it after he was indicted), Vilar hasn't found much peace in the three years since he was first accused of fraud.

Vilar now spends his days feeling "abandoned and bitter" in his UN Plaza apartment. His 5,500-square-foot living room is filled with legal paperwork. He spends 10 to 12 hours a day "working on his defense." His friends have abandoned him. Even some family members have cut off contract. And while he doesn't have to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet any longer, he does have an 11 p.m. curfew and cannot travel without court permission. Rage, we're told, is Vilar's "constant companion."

In 2005 Vilar was indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, investment adviser fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering, charges that could land him 150 years in jail if convicted. Vilar maintains he's innocent, and he has a rather creative explanation for why the government came after him. It was his philanthropy that got him into trouble!

Mr. Vilar blamed his high-profile philanthropy for the prosecution. "If I had been another guy who said, 'Gee, put another Picasso on the wall,; they probably wouldn't have bothered me," he said.

So there you go. If you lie and cheat your way to millions, do not give any of it to charity. Huge checks to worthy causes has "guilty conscience" written all over it.

As His Fraud Trial Begins, Fallen Arts Patron Decries His Prosecution [NYT]