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Yagalla's bunny flop

Hedge fund manager Mark Yagalla had a unique investment approach: Take money from clients and spend it on gifts for his Playboy centerfold girlfriend.

Last month the 24-year-old pleaded guilty to investor fraud; he now faces up to ten years in prison. His firm, Ashbury Capital Partners, which at one point handled about $50 million for wealthy investors, has been shuttered. But it was fun while it lasted. Yagalla dropped out of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School to start his Wilmington, Delaware-based fund in 1997. Two years later he met Sandy Bentley at a Cher concert in Las Vegas. Bentley, who reportedly was also dating Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, soon proved to be the young money manager's downfall. During a 14-month relationship, authorities say, Yagalla bought the Playmate $6 million in gifts - including cars, furs, jewelry and exotic vacations - and paid for it all with investor funds. "This is a charming young kid, almost elfish-looking, really, who was extremely bright and who propelled himself into this lifestyle of the rich and famous that just got way out of control," says Charles Oberly, Yagalla's former attorney. "Eventually, his world collapsed. The best thing for Mark was that this all happened at an early age and that he has time to one day get back on his feet."