Celebrity Money Adviser Behind Bars

Dana Giacchetto, the fallen money manager for Hollywood celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz, was sentenced Wednesday to 57 months in prison for bilking his clients out of more than $9 million.

Giacchetto, 38, pleaded guilty in November to looting accounts belonging to investors, many of them of more modest means than movie stars -- in his $100 million Cassandra Fund.

Prosecutors alleged that he used their money to pay for personal expenses and a lavish lifestyle, then shifted funds from one account to another to hide his scheme.

The lengthy hearing was marked with emotion as Giacchetto delivered a dramatic tearful plea for mercy and one victim lambasted him for ruining her life by squandering her inheritance.

"Probably this is the only time I can address the betrayal you've done," the woman said to Giacchetto as she testified during the hearing. "You have devastated my life and affected my daughter's future."

"I'm sorry," Giacchetto said as he sat at the counsel table.

"I don't think so," she countered.

In sentencing Giacchetto, U.S. District Judge Robert Patterson told the former money manager, "You did go out of control."

Giacchetto's lawyers said their client had abused alcohol and prescription drugs including Valium and asked that he be considered for a special drug rehabilitation program that could reduce his term by a year.

Patterson agreed to make the recommendation to the Bureau of Prisons but said he would also advise that inmates with more serious problems be considered first.

The judge also ordered Giacchetto to make restitution but said he had little hope that the funds could be recovered.

Prior to the sentencing, Giacchetto made a dramatic appeal for mercy that turned into a tirade against the news media.

"I'm not this one-dimensional mendacious con the press makes me out to be," he shouted to reporters in the courtroom.

Addressing his victims he said, "I'm not here in any way to mitigate my guilt ... I am truly sorry from the bottom of my heart ... I never woke up in the morning and said I'm going to rip off my clients."

He told the packed courtroom that he "spun out of control," lived in a "world of fantasy," and that no one would help him.

"If there is a message to anyone on Wall Street, if you think it can't happen to you, it can," he said.

As he finished his statements, Giacchetto put his head down on the counsel table and wept while his mother yelled out, "We love you Dana. You are very honest. You helped people."

Giacchetto's list of celebrity clientele included Diaz, DiCaprio, Ben Affleck, Courteney Cox, Ed Burns, Matt Damon and superagent Mike Ovitz. But in December 1999 a large group of those stars dropped Giacchetto over suspicions their money was being mishandled.

He was charged and arrested last April and released on $1 million bond. Giacchetto tried to flee a week later ad was rearrested on April 12 at the Newark, N.J. airport.

He was carrying $44,000 worth of first-class airline tickets to Tokyo, Singapore, Frankfurt and Rome, $4,000 in small bills, and an altered, expired U.S. passport. He has been in prison since that time.

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