Del Biaggio sentenced 8 years for securities fraud

He may not be as maligned as Ponzi scheme king Bernie Madoff, but there’s no doubt that there is no love lost between William “Boots” Del Biaggio, who was convicted in February of committing securities fraud, and the investors he bilked.

Del Biaggio was sentenced last week to eight years in prison and ordered to repay more than $67 million in restitution for misappropriating funds from individual investors he advised. By comparison, Madoff admitted to defrauding thousands of investors of billions of dollars and is serving 150 years in prison.

But the pain felt by Del Biaggio’s investors is no less severe.

Silicon Valley real estate developer Bill Baron, an investor and former friend of Del Biaggio, told the court before sentencing that he was anguished to learn that Del Biaggio misused the funds after presenting the investments as legitimate.

“He was absolutely ruthless. He would look in our eyes and leave with our money.” Baron said.

In sentencing the 42-year-old Del Biaggio, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said he received numerous letters from people who put money into investment funds that Del Biaggio managed. Prosecutors say some of those investors lost retirement funds and money for their children’s education.

Del Biaggio, a former Sand Hill Capital general partner, was charged with cheating investors of about $100 million, and investigators said he falsified documents so it would look like he owned securities that belonged to others. The complaint states that Del Biaggio used $25 million of the loan proceeds to purchase an interest in the Nashville Predators professional hockey team, and used the rest for other personal expenses.

In addition to co-founding Sand Hill Capital in 2003, which continues to make loans to venture-backed companies, Del Biaggio was once a minority owner of the San Jose Sharks hockey team.

Authorities say Del Biaggio ran up gambling debts of $4 million on his credit cards, and that it remains unclear how much of the investors’ money went for those debts.

Judge Breyer alluded to an unspecified “substance abuse issue” before ordering Del Biaggio to enroll in a drug treatment program while he’s in prison. Completing the drug treatment program could reduce the sentence, which will be served at the minimum-security Lompoc State Prison. —Alastair Goldfisher