HOUSTON, Texas — A Texas jury cleared the way yesterday for U.S. authorities to go after $330 million in stolen investor funds sitting in frozen foreign bank accounts controlled by convicted Ponzi schemer R. Allen Stanford.
The jury, which convicted the former tycoon on 13 of 14 fraud-related counts earlier this week, found there to be sufficient evidence that the money in 29 accounts in Switzerland, Britain and Canada was some of the more than $7 billion he stole from investors over a period of 20 years.
U.S. District Judge David Hittner set a June 14 sentencing date for Stanford, who faces up to 20 years in prison on the most serious charges but could be looking at a life behind bars if the judge orders the sentences to run consecutively. In a similar but unrelated case, Bernard Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison for orchestrating the largest pyramid scheme in history.
Stanford’s attorneys, Robert Scardino and Ali Fazel, said they plan to appeal his conviction after he is sentenced. They said a gag order limits what they can say about the case, but that one avenue of appeal they might pursue would be claiming they weren’t given enough time to prepare for their defense. Stanford hired and fired several attorneys before the court appointed his current legal team, which is his fifth.
“Our client spent almost nine months in a mental facility in North Carolina before the trial. We had 30 days with a competent client,” Scardino said.
Scardino said he couldn’t say what Stanford has told him about being convicted.
“It’s hard to know what a man is thinking about when he’s looking at spending the rest of his life in prison,” he said.
“We did the best we could with what we had,” Scardino added.
Prosecutors say Stanford ran a Ponzi scheme for 20 years in which he used the money from investors who bought certificates of deposit, or CDs, from his bank in the Caribbean island nation of Antigua to fund a string of failed businesses, bribe regulators and support his heavy personal spending habits.
A U.S. postal inspector testified that he traced $2.5 million in investor money to two accounts controlled by one of the financier’s girlfriends, including money that had been moved from an account dubbed “Baby Mama Trust.” Stanford, who is going through a divorce, fathered children by several girlfriends, whom authorities called his “outside wives.”
Yesterday’s decision doesn’t guarantee that U.S. authorities will get the money, as liquidators appointed by an Antiguan court are also vying for much of it. Authorities say getting the money could take years because each request will have to pass through regulators in the countries where the accounts are based.
His attorneys portrayed Stanford as a visionary entrepreneur who made money for investors and conducted legitimate business deals. They accused the prosecution’s star witness, an ex-Stanford employee, of being behind the fraud.
Stanford did not testify in his own defense.
Three other former Stanford executives are scheduled for trial in September. A former Antiguan financial regulator was indicted and awaits extradition to the U.S.
The financier’s trial was delayed after he was declared incompetent in January 2011 due to an anti-anxiety drug addiction he developed in jail. He underwent treatment and was declared fit for trial in December.
A U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit that also accuses Stanford and his former executives of fraud is pending.