Stanford convicted of defrauding investors in Ponzi scheme

March 6 (Bloomberg) -- Onetime billionaire R. Allen Stanford was convicted of fraud in what prosecutors said was a $7 billion scheme involving bogus certificates of deposit at his Antigua-based bank.

A federal jury in Houston today found the financier guilty of all but one of the 14 counts against him, including wire and mail fraud and obstructing a federal regulatory investigation. Stanford, 61, faces as long as 20 years in prison for each fraud count.

Stanford, who was ranked 205 on Forbes magazine’s 2008 list of the richest Americans, with a net worth of $2.2 billion, has been jailed since being indicted in June 2009 after prosecutors said he might try to flee. A second trial with the same jury will be held later today to determine the amount Stanford must forfeit. Prosecutors are seeking about $300 million in 36 bank accounts that are located in the U.K., Switzerland, Canada, Antigua and Florida.

The founder of Stanford Financial Group, based in Houston, denied accusations by prosecutors and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that he cheated investors through CDs issued by Stanford International Bank Ltd.

Super Bowl

The jury of eight men and four women began deliberations Feb. 29 before reaching today’s verdict after a five-week trial. U.S. District Judge David Hittner ordered the jury yesterday to return to deliberations after the panel said it was deadlocked.

While a defense lawyer told jurors in an opening statement on Jan. 24 that they would hear from Stanford, he was never called to the witness stand.

Stanford was found not guilty of a single wire fraud count related to bribing an Antiguan official with Super Bowl tickets.

“We are disappointed in the outcome,” Ali Fazel, Stanford’s lawyer, said outside the court. “We expect to appeal.”

Robert Scardino, Stanford’s other lead attorney, said the defense team will “examine issues for a new trial.” They both declined to comment further, citing a gag order by Hittner. Prosecutor Gregg Costa declined to comment, citing the order.

Before the jury gave its verdict, Stanford sat at the defense table with his eyes closed and his hands clenched at his chin. He occasionally turned and smiled faintly at his mother, Sammie, who sat in the front row with Stanford’s two adult daughters and a female family friend.

As the verdict was read, Stanford exhaled loudly on several counts. He didn’t turn to look at his weeping daughters and his mother until the jury left. His eyes teared up and he looked away.

Inmate Assault

Stanford, who sustained head injuries in a 2009 inmate assault at a jail in Houston, developed an addiction to prescription anti-anxiety drugs and spent almost nine months at a federal prison hospital in North Carolina. His lawyers tried unsuccessfully in December to delay his trial, arguing he was suicidal and may never sufficiently recover from the beating to face a jury. Hittner declared Stanford legally competent and ordered the trial to go ahead.

The government presented testimony at trial from investors who bought the allegedly fraudulent CDs as well as from the executives who helped sell them.

Houston investor Cassie Wilkinson ran to court after receiving a call at the gym that the jury had reached a verdict. Wilkinson attended most of the trial and lost about $500,000 on Stanford CDs.

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