By JENNIFER PELTZ
NEW YORK — An accountant admitted Thursday he made “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” actress Tamara Tunie a real-life crime victim by stealing more than $1 million from her, the Kansas City Symphony’s music director and other clients.
Joseph Cilibrasi, who was Tunie’s business manager for more than a decade and cultivated other clients in the arts, pleaded guilty to grand larceny and other charges. He used some of the stolen cash to finance his own forays into entertainment, including investing in movies and Broadway shows and hiring a screenwriter to pen a script about a historic building, prosecutors say.
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Cilibrasi's plea deal calls for 2 1/2 to 7 1/2 years in prison. He is free, pending a Jan. 4 sentencing.
Cilibrasi, 51, told a Manhattan judge he secretly opened a credit card account in Tunie’s name _ and got his own card on the account by falsely listing himself as her husband – and wrote checks to himself from her accounts without her permission.
“I stole over $1.4 million from Ms. Tunie Generet by converting funds from her (business accounts) to my personal use,” he said, using the actress’ married name. Tunie, who plays medical examiner Melinda Warner on the NBC series, is married to jazz singer Gregory Generet.
Cilibrasi also admitted he stole $75,000 from the Kansas City Symphony’s Michael Stern by pocketing checks he told Stern to write to cover some federal and Missouri state taxes. Stern was hit with tax penalties because the money never got to authorities, Cilibrasi said.
The accountant also acknowledged opening a credit-card account in the name of another client, screenwriter Janet Roach. Her credits include 1985’s “Prizzi’s Honor,” starring Jack Nicholson and Kathleen Turner.
Cilibrasi used some of the proceeds of his thefts to back such shows as “Legally Blonde: The Musical” and the Tony Award-winning “Spring Awakening,” and films including the Tunie-directed “See You In September,” the Manhattan District Attorney’s office said when the case was unveiled last December.
The accountant also used some of the ill-gotten cash to vacation in Italy, Puerto Rico and Los Angeles, and to hire a writer for a script about Bannerman Castle, an elaborate building on an island in the Hudson River, prosecutors said.
Representatives for Tunie and Stern didn't immediately return calls Thursday. Roach didn't immediately respond to an email message.
Cilibrasi declined to comment as he left court.
“He accepts responsibility and wants to move on with his life,” his lawyer, Gerald Shargel, said later.
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