Stanford Convicted in $7.1 Billion Ponzi Scheme

March 6, 2012
R Allen Stanford Guilty In Ponzi Scheme
A federal jury on Tuesday, March 6, 2012, found R. Allen Stanford, the chairman of Stanford Financial Group, guilty of masterminding a $7.1 billion Ponzi scheme.

Mr. Stanford, 61 years old, made a dizzying climb from a small-town boyhood in Mexia, Texas, to the top of the financial firmament and became a billionaire. At the peak of his career, he owned banks and residences around the world, had high-placed contacts with the leaders of Libya and other nations, and was a particularly outsize presence in the Caribbean isle of Antigua, where he was knighted in 2006. Mr. Stanford valued other kinds of possessions, too, including a 120-foot yacht and a fleet of aircraft valued at more than $100 million.

In 2008, Mr. Stanford was the 205th richest American with a net worth of $2.2 billion, according to Forbes magazine. His holdings in Antigua, where he held a dual citizenship, included banks, airlines and the country's biggest newspaper. A cricket enthusiast, he rose to international prominence as a benefactor of the sport.

But Mr. Stanford's lavish lifestyle was built on funds he borrowed illegally from his investors, prosecutors said. In 2009, the U.S. government accused Mr. Stanford of swindling nearly 30,000 of investors in 113 countries for more than two decades by selling them certificates of deposit issued by the Stanford International Bank he controlled in the Caribbean island of Antigua, representing to clients that the money would be invested conservatively in stocks and bonds. Instead, he funneled the proceeds into risky real-estate assets and his own businesses, a luxurious lifestyle, a secret Swiss bank account and business deals that consistently lost money. 

For the prosecution, the Stanford case was a Ponzi scheme in which he and five conspirators had given investors false financial statements indicating that the certificates of deposit were invested in conservative assets when $2 billion was actually lent to Mr. Stanford. All the while, auditors, along with the head of Antigua’s Financial Services Regulatory Commission, had received bribes to conceal the scheme and misinform the S.E.C., prosecutors said.

The estimated Mr. Stanford's $7.1 billion fraud was among the largest in history, but it was overshadowed by an even greater financial crime: the $17.3 billion Ponzi scheme orchestrated by financier Bernard Madoff, who pleaded guilty in 2009.

Mr. Stanford has been jailed since June 2009 because he was judged to be a flight risk. In prison, Mr. Stanford was beaten in September 2009 by a fellow inmate. Mr. Stanford complained of memory loss from the head trauma, and a court found that he was so addicted to his prescribed painkillers that he wasn't competent to stand trial. In December 2011, a judge found him competent and the trial commenced in January.

After a criminal case that dragged on for nearly three years, the jury on Tuesday, March 6, 2012, convicted Mr. Stanford on 13 of the 14 charges brought by prosecutors, including conspiracy to commit money laundering, fraud and obstructing investigators. He faces a maximum of 230 years in prison. Mr. Stanford's attorneys told reporters they would appeal but didn't specify on what grounds. Prosecutors declined to comment.