Jury convicts financier Stanford in $7 billion ponzi fraud
Houston • A federal jury Tuesday convicted R. Allen Stanford, a Texas financier, on 13 out of 14 counts of fraud in connection with a worldwide scheme that lasted more than two decades and involved more than $7 billion in investments.
Stanford listened to the verdict silently. His mother and other family members wept, while investors watching in the gallery also cried and expressed relief. He faces a possible life sentence.
The jury decision followed a six-week trial and came three years after Stanford was accused of defrauding nearly 30,000 investors in 113 countries in a Ponzi scheme involving $7 billion in fraudulent high-interest certificates of deposit at the Stanford International Bank, which was based on the Caribbean island of Antigua.
Prosecutors say Stanford used investor money to fund a string of failed businesses, pay later investors, bribe regulators and pay for his lavish lifestyle, which included buying himself yachts and private jets. His attorneys portrayed Stanford as a visionary entrepreneur who made money for investors and conducted legitimate business deals.
Stanford was once considered one of the wealthiest people in the U.S. with an estimated net worth of more than $2 billion. But he had court-appointed attorneys after his assets were seized.
The prosecutors heavily relied on James M. Davis, Stanford's former roommate from Baylor University, who served as his chief financial officer. Davis testified that the Stanford business empire was a fraud complete with bribes for Antiguan regulators and schemes to hide operations from federal investigators.
In the end, the jury cleared Stanford of only one of several counts of wire fraud but found him guilty of every other count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, launder money and obstruct justice.
"We're disappointed in the outcome and we expect an appeal absolutely," said Robert A. Scardino, one of the defense attorneys.
Stanford's lawyers sought to portray him as detached when it came to financial details, which he supposedly left to Davis, who pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and conspiracy to obstruct an SEC investigation into the Stanford business.
For the prosecution, the Stanford case was a Ponzi scheme in which he and five conspirators gave investors false financial statements indicating that the certificates of deposit were invested in conservative assets when $2 billion was actually lent to Stanford.
A shorter civil trial before the same jury, in which prosecutors hoped to seize money from more than 30 Stanford-controlled accounts in countries that include Switzerland, Britain and Canada, began later Tuesday.