HOUSTON, Texas - Disgraced tycoon R. Allen Stanford has been sentenced to 110 years in jail for operating a Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors of more than $7bn.
The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Judge David Hittner in Houston after a court hearing at which Stanford, 62, spoke, followed by two investors.
In March, a Houston jury convicted Stanford on all but one of 14 fraud-related counts and cleared the way for U.S. authorities to seize millions from Stanford’s bank accounts.
Stanford’s attorneys had argued that he was a legitimate businessman. But prosecutors convinced the jury that Stanford organized a 20-year scheme that siphoned billions through the sale of certificates of deposit from his Caribbean bank to fleece thousands of investors in scores of countries.
On Thursday, Stanford said government investigators had scapegoated him using “Gestapo tactics” to take him down and “dismembered” his business, the Houston Chronicle tweeted. Stanford said he felt sorry for “depositors, employees, families and my own family.”
“I am not a thief,” he said, according to the Chronicle.
Stanford, who has been dubbed a “mini Madoff,” netted $7 billion, much less than notorious financier Bernard Madoff’s $17-billion scheme. But prosecutors argued Thursday that Stanford kept more of his ill-gotten gains — his net worth was $2 billion, compared with Madoff’s $823 million.
Two investors spoke Thursday on behalf of Stanford’s victims. When investor Angela Shaw asked fellow investors to stand, half the gallery rose.
Afterward, investor Jaime Escalona addressed Stanford.
“You are a dirty, rotten scoundrel,” Escalona said.
Stanford showed no reaction to the investor statements, sipping water and taking a deep breath after his sentence was read.
His sentence is 40 years shorter than the jail term handed down to Madoff, who pleaded guilty in 2009 to a Ponzi scheme targeting wealthy investors.
Stanford was convicted in March on 13 of 14 charges against him, despite his lawyers attempting to shift most of the blame on his chief financial officer.
Prosecutors had asked for a 230-year sentence, with defence lawyers arguing for a lenient term of 44 months.
Three other former executives at Stanford’s company are awaiting trial, while a former Antiguan financial regulator is expected to be extradited to the US for related charges.
While a jury has cleared the way for access to about $330m in stolen funds sitting in Stanford’s frozen bank accounts across Canada, England and Switzerland, legal wrangling could make it years before investors recover any of that money.
A Texan banker, Stanford rose to prominence outside the US when he bankrolled international cricket competitions in the UK and Caribbean. He was knighted in Antigua which later rreworked his knighthood.
But after the collapse of his agreement to stage Twenty20 cricket in England, his financial empire began to crumble amid investigations by US regulators.
Forbes Magazine listed him as the 605th richest man in the world in 2006.