updated 5/27/2005 6:50:22 PM ET 2005-05-27T22:50:22

A wealthy philanthropist with a net worth of almost $1 billion was arrested Thursday on charges that he used money from an investor in his investing business "as a personal piggy bank" to pay personal expenses and make charitable donations, prosecutors said.

Alberto William Vilar was accused in a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan with engaging in business practices that were fraudulent, deceptive and manipulative. He is being held without bail, prosecutors said.

U.S. Postal Inspector Cynthia M. Fraterrigo charged in the complaint that Vilar improperly used money from an individual who invested $5 million in Vilar's firm, Amerindo Investment Advisors Inc.

She said the investment was deposited into a brokerage account used by Vilar "as a personal piggy bank to pay personal expenses and make charitable contributions, without the knowledge, consent or authorization of the victim."

Vilar, according to the complaint, had a personal net worth of about $950 million in December and has made charitable contributions of more than approximately $200 million to entities including opera organizations around the world, medical institutions and his college alma mater, Washington and Jefferson College, among others.

The complaint alleged that the victim who invested $5 million did so after Vilar in June 2002 advised the victim to invest in an Amerindo venture designed to benefit from a U.S. government program promoting venture capital investment in small businesses.

According to the complaint, Vilar suggested that the victim could earn about $250,000 per quarter.

It was not immediately clear who was representing Vilar in court.

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