Bloomberg News

Stanford’s ‘Arrogance’ Spurred Conviction for $7 Billion Fraud

March 09, 2012

R. Allen Stanford, the onetime Caribbean banking tycoon found guilty of helming a $7 billion investment fraud, was brought down by his own arrogance and greed, jurors said.

Billie Wade, 69, a retired hairdresser who described herself during jury selection in Houston federal court as “the dumbest person in this room,” said Stanford’s attitude made the biggest impression on her, more than any evidence or testimony.

“His arrogance, every day,” she said yesterday after the jury decided that Stanford, 61, must forfeit $330 million in assets in 29 bank accounts seized by the government. The same jury of eight men and four women returned guilty verdicts March 6 on 13 of 14 criminal counts against Stanford.

Stanford was found guilty of lying to investors about the nature and oversight of certificates of deposit issued by Antigua-based Stanford International Bank Ltd. and sold in the U.S. by his Houston-based securities firm, Stanford Group Co.

After a six-week trial, the jury convicted him on four counts of wire fraud and five counts of mail fraud, each of which carries a top sentence of 20 years in prison. He was also convicted of conspiracy and obstructing a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission probe. He was found not guilty of one wire fraud count. U.S. District Judge David Hittner set June 14 for sentencing. Stanford remains in custody.

Boxes of Evidence

“The jury returned unanimous verdicts and we think they speak for themselves,” John Wojciak, the jury foreman, said yesterday after the forfeiture trial. Jurors examined 10 to 12 boxes of evidence, said Wojciak, an environmental engineer. He refused to answer questions from reporters.

Bruce Forrest, a 47-year-old alternate juror, was dismissed before deliberations began and returned to the courthouse yesterday to meet with the other jurors and the judge. Forrest, an optician, said prosecutors presented “overwhelming evidence” of Stanford’s guilt.

James Davis, Stanford’s former finance chief, was the most compelling witness, Forrest said. Davis, who pleaded guilty and entered into a cooperation agreement with the U.S. in 2009, testified for five days against Stanford. Forrest said he believed Davis, “even though he made that deal with the government.”

Forrest also recalled testimony from Sohil Merchant, Stanford’s information technology chief, who testified to having to repeatedly fly in laptops to replace ones the financier had smashed against walls or dropped into water.

‘Other People’s Money’

“There’s an arrogance that goes with that,” Forrest said. “And to find out he used other people’s money in order to accomplish all this -- along with arrogance comes greed.”

Juror Carlos Anez, a 27-year-old industrial engineer, said the jury briefly deadlocked on one count, the allegation that Stanford had bribed Antiguan banking regulator Leroy King with Super Bowl tickets. They weren’t sure what the rules were in Antigua, he said. That was the only count they acquitted on.

The jury yesterday granted total forfeiture on 29 bank accounts in London, Zurich, Geneva and elsewhere that prosecutors said are worth $330 million. The money will go to Stanford’s victims, the U.S. Justice Department said.

“We won’t say it’s what we expected,” Ali Fazel, one of Stanford’s attorneys, said after the forfeiture verdict.

Before the forfeiture decision was announced, Stanford sat with his lawyers at the defense table, laughing occasionally. As the verdict was read, he looked over at his mother, Sammie, and his daughter Randi. The two women later left the courthouse carrying the suit and dress shirt Stanford had worn in court.

Maintains Innocence

Stanford, who didn’t testify, maintains his innocence. Defense lawyers argued that his organization had had enough assets to honor its commitments until the SEC sued in February 2009 and won a court order freezing his holdings and appointing a receiver to liquidate them.

Forrest said he was sorry Stanford didn’t testify.

“He might regret that now,” Forrest said. “It’s always nice to hear from him.”

Anez said it wouldn’t have mattered if Stanford had taken the witness stand, given the amount of evidence against him.

“It was a lot,” he said. Wade, the retired hairdresser, said she had no interest in hearing from Stanford.

Robert Scardino, Stanford’s other attorney, said he and Fazel will ask the court to have lawyers review their work to see if they made any mistakes or “missed any issues.”

Fazel said there are many grounds for appeal.

Jailhouse Beating

Stanford, who sustained head injuries in a 2009 inmate assault at a Houston jail, became addicted to prescription anti- anxiety drugs and spent almost nine months in a federal prison hospital in North Carolina. His lawyers tried to delay the trial, arguing that their client was suicidal and might never sufficiently recover from the beating to face a jury.

Hittner declared Stanford legally competent and ordered the trial to go ahead.

“That will be an issue,” Fazel said. “It will be a lengthy appeal.”

The criminal case is U.S. v. Stanford, 09-cr-00342, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston). The SEC case is Securities and Exchange Commission v. Stanford International Bank Ltd., 09-cv-298, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Dallas).

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrew Harris in Houston at aharris16@bloomberg.net; Laurel Brubaker Calkins in Houston at laurel@calkins.us.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net


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