Nearly 3 1/2 years after being arrested in an investor fraud case, prominent Thoroughbred owner Gary Tanaka finally gets his day in court when his federal trial convenes with jury selection Sept. 22 in New York.
Tanaka, 64, and his partner in Amerindo Investment Advisors, Alberto Vilar, face charges of scheming to defraud, obtaining money by false pretense, and wiring investor funds across state lines with the intent of converting the money to personal use. Tanaka was also accused by the federal government of allegedly using funds to buy racehorses, but he said the government has dropped that charge.
“This is almost anti-climactic after this long,” Tanaka said from his son’s New York City apartment, where he’s been living under semi-house arrest for the past few years. “It’s good, it’s great that it’s finally going to trial, but, gosh, three-and-a-half years kind of shot to hell at my age. It’s one thing if you’re a kid and you can go that long without thinking anything of it…”
Tanaka said the trial will run for an estimated eight weeks. He has maintained that the prosecution repeatedly delayed the trial while trying to bolster a weak case.
“The feds will hang in there and hang in there even if they have a bad case,” Tanaka said. “They have deep-pocket funding. Uncle Sam lets them keep going. They are going to call a lot of witnesses; they’ve filed 60 charges against us and they’re just trying to get something to stick.”
Tanaka, who has raced such standouts as Gourmet Girl, Donna Viola, Sarafan, Snow Polina, Squeak, Star Parade, Dreams Gallore, Millkom, Single Empire, Golden Apples, and King’s Drama, made fortunes for his clients when Amerindo invested in semiconductor technology firms like Microsoft and Cisco in the 1980s and 1990s.
But Tanaka and Vilar ran into trouble with the dot.com crash that began in 2000 when their main fund, which had, at its peak, been valued at $10 billion, lost some 85% of that value.
Although Tanaka is a private, soft-spoken man, his former partner is a high-profile target who has contributed more than $100 million to universities and the arts. Vilar was accused by his one-time friend Lily Cates, widow of prominent Thoroughbred owner Marshall Naify, of transferring funds she had invested into his own personal checking account and using the funds to pay business and personal expenses. Tanaka is accused of helping transfer a portion of those funds into Vilar’s personal checking account.
Tanaka, a resident of London, had his passport revoked and has not been able to see his wife or youngest children since his arrest. He is allowed to travel about during the day, but must be back in his son’s apartment each evening.
Tanaka, who is of Japanese ancestry, was born in a relocation camp in Idaho two years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, even though his parents were both U.S.-born natives of Seattle, Wash. Tanaka attended MIT and the University of London’s Imperial College, and worked in the institutional investment field for a decade before forming Amerindo with Vilar.