Adviser to stars charged with fraud

Allegedly used funds to buy $7.5 million home

Financial adviser Kenneth I. Starr has been accused of bilking big-name clients of more than $30 million, in charges brought Thursday in separate complaints from the U.S. attorneys office and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Starr’s clients are characterized in the SEC complaint as “high net-worth individuals, many of whom are socialites or luminaries in the entertainment and business worlds.” None are identified by name.

Between January 2008 and April 2010, Starr allegedly siphoned money from his clients’ accounts for his personal use.

The charges touched off a flurry of Gotham media attention somewhat reminiscent of the frenzy that surrounded legal actions involving Bernard Madoff and Eliot Spitzer. (Local interest is attributable in part to the involvement of former Manhattan Borough President Andrew Stein, an alleged associate of Starr also named in criminal charges.)

The federal case against Starr describes some of his allegedly ilThe federal case against Starr describes some of his allegedly illicit tactics as a “‘Ponzi’ scheme,” the phrase that echoed in the news last year in connection with Madoff’s multimillion dollar fraud.

In the federal complaint filed in the Southern District of New York, coded references to Starr’s clients sent the press scurrying to uncover the clients’ true identities — just as mentions of “Client-9” in charges against a New York prostitution ring were ultimately traced back to Elliot Spitzer, in a revelation that led to his political downfall.

Some reports identified Uma Thurman as the actress referred to as “Client-2,” with ex-WME topper Jim Wiatt fingered as “Client-3,” described as a former executive of a talent agency. Starr’s lawyer and Representatives of Thurman and Wiatt did not return messages seeking comment.

In the complaint, Starr is alleged to have replaced an illicit withdrawal of $1 million from Client-2 with coin that belonged to Client-3.

Other news agencies have pegged Gotham-based jeweler-to-the-stars Jacob Arabo as “Client-6.” Martin Scorcese also had been named in early reports, but a rep for the helmer said he has not been a client of Starr’s for some time.

Among the most attention-getting assertions in the federal complaint is the allegation that Starr used some of his ill-gotten gains to purchase a $7.5 million East Side apartment outfitted with, according to the complaint, five bedrooms, a wet bar and a lap pool.

“Starr marketed his services as an accountant and financial adviser to clients, gained control over millions of dollars belonging to his clients, and then misappropriated millions of dollars of his clients’ assets for his own personal use,” IRS criminal investigator Robert Beranger said in his deposition.

The U.S. attorneys’ complaint — which include charges of fraud, wire fraud and money laundering — also accused former borough president Stein of making false statements to the IRS and to a federal officer.

The SEC brought charges against Starr as well as wife Diane Passage and Colcave LLC, the company through which Starr is accused of purchasing the apartment.

The topper of Starr and Co. and Starr Investment Advisors, Starr is not the same Kenneth Starr who investigated Whitewater and the Clinton-Lewinsky affair in the 1990s.

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