Billionaire and diehard cricket fan Allen Stanford has been sentenced to 110 years in jail after being convicted of operating a $US7 billion Ponzi scheme, in a final judgment closing one of the biggest fraud cases ever in the United States.
Stanford was originally accused of operating the scheme as early as 2009, when US federal agents raided the offices of Stanford Financial Group in Houston.
The raid was during the height of concern over the global financial crisis, and analysts warned the Securities and Exchange Commission was ramping up its prosecution efforts.
At one point, Stanford was ranked as the 205th richest American, with wealth of about $3.5 billion. Stanford Financial claimed to have had more than $US51 billion under its management.
Judge David Hittner handed down the sentence yesterday in the US District Court, saying “this is one of the most egregious frauds ever presented to a trial jury in federal court”. Along with the 110-year sentence, Stanford was ordered to hand over $US6 billion.
Stanford himself spoke for more than 40 minutes yesterday, saying that he wasn’t to blame, and that over-zealous government investigators actually contributed to his company’s collapse.
“I’m not here to ask for sympathy or forgiveness or to throw myself at your mercy,” Stanford told Hittner. “I did not run a Ponzi scheme. I didn’t defraud anybody.”
Prosecutors weren’t as forgiving, saying Stanford “treated his victims like road kill…Allen Stanford doesn’t deserve anyone’s sympathy and he doesn’t deserve your honor’s mercy”.
The SEC said three years ago that Stanford and two other executives had sold certificates of deposit “by promising high return rates that exceed those available through true certificates of deposits offered by traditional banks”.
Although Stanford’s defence attempted to implicate former chief financial officer James Davis, prosecutors said Stanford was able to fund a lavish lifestyle by taking $US2 billion from investor deposits while at the same time promoting “bogus” certificates of deposit.
Stanford was certainly known for living large – in 2008 he created the 20/20 cricket tournament.
He was found guilty on 13 charges of fraud, conspiracy, money laundering and obstruction of justice earlier this year.
A group of people who formed the Stanford Victims Coalition spoke during the hearing, but a spokesman said they were disappointed Stanford didn’t apologise during the hearing.
Prosecutors warn it could be years before authorities recover $US330 million in frozen accounts across the globe.