updated 12/19/2008 11:43:58 AM ET 2008-12-19T16:43:58

A judge ordered philanthropist Alberto Vilar imprisoned to await sentencing after his conviction on conspiracy fraud charges.

Vilar, 68, was led away by U.S. marshals after Judge Richard J. Sullivan announced his order Thursday at a hearing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. Prosecutors had argued that Vilar should be sent to prison, saying there was a risk he would flee before his March 20 sentencing.

The philanthropist was convicted last month by a jury that heard evidence that he lied to clients by promising safe and steady returns through conservative investments by his San Francisco-based investment company, Amerindo Investment Advisors Inc. Prosecutors said he actually put their money in risky technology stocks.

The judge agreed with prosecutors Thursday, saying he was no longer confident that Vilar would appear at sentencing. Federal guidelines call for Vilar, once a pillar of philanthropy for opera and cultural institutions worldwide, to receive at least 27 years in prison.

Vilar's lawyer, Herald Price Fahringer, argued his client should not be imprisoned.

"You're talking about a man who's had a perfect record on bail," Fahringer said.

Sullivan noted that a defendant, once convicted, had to prove he was not a risk to flee.

"I'm risk averse," the judge said. "I don't want to roll the dice as to whether Mr. Vilar will appear for sentencing."

In court papers, prosecutors said Vilar's promise to appear for sentencing was "essentially meaningless" given his history of lying whenever it served his interest, his vast experience at living and traveling abroad and his access to wealth.

Forbes magazine once said Vilar was worth $950 million, but that was before the collapse in technology stocks.

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