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Accountant to Entertainers Accused of Bilking Clients

Dec. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Joseph Cilibrasi, an accountant and business manager for entertainment figures, was arraigned in New York state court today on charges of stealing from clients including “Law and Order” actress Tamara Tunie.

Cilibrasi, 50, is accused of taking $1.4 million from Tunie, who appears on the NBC television series “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.” Another victim is conductor Michael Stern, the son of the late violinist Isaac Stern, according to the indictment. Cilibrasi allegedly used the stolen funds to invest in Broadway musicals such as “Spring Awakening.”

Peirce Moser, an assistant district attorney, told Judge Rena Uviller today that Cilibrasi was “desperate for celebrity.” Moser sought cash bail of $750,000, saying that the defendant was “untrustworthy” and a flight risk.

Tunie, who has sued Cilibrasi in state court, hired him in the early 1990s as her business manager. In 2002 he secretly obtained a credit card in her name and then got his own card on the account by listing himself as her husband, according to the indictment. He also allegedly wrote checks to himself from her accounts.

Cilibrasi pleaded not guilty, and Uviller set bail at $100,000, in cash or as a fully secured bond.

“She was fully aware of these withdrawals,” JaneAnne Murray, the lawyer representing Cilibrasi, told the judge, referring to Tunie. “This is essentially a civil action that has been criminalized, I believe, inappropriately.”

Guilty Plea

Cilibrasi pleaded guilty in 2004 to stealing more than $39,000 from another client, Robin Frank Management, and was ordered to pay full restitution, according to a release from the district attorney’s office.

He is charged with five counts, including two for grand larceny and another for scheming to defraud. He faces up to 25 years in prison on one of the larceny charges. His business, Cilibrasi & Associates Inc., was also indicted.

Stern, music director of the Kansas City Symphony, lost $75,000, according to documents filed in court.

To contact the reporters on this story: Don Jeffrey in New York at djeffrey1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David E. Rovella at drovella@bloomberg.net

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