Stanford foreign accounts should be forfeited: jury

HOUSTON Fri Mar 9, 2012 3:28am IST

Allen Stanford leaves the Federal Courthouse where the jury found him guilty, in Houston March 6, 2012. REUTERS/Donna W. Carson

Allen Stanford leaves the Federal Courthouse where the jury found him guilty, in Houston March 6, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Donna W. Carson

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HOUSTON (Reuters) - Convicted swindler Allen Stanford should forfeit some $330 million stashed in foreign bank accounts, a jury found on Thursday.

The verdict clears the way for the U.S. government to try to seize the funds and return them to investors.

Stanford was convicted on Tuesday in federal court in Houston of running a $7 billion Ponzi scheme.

During a six-week trial, prosecutors said Stanford stole the deposits of investors in Stanford International Bank in Antigua to fund a lavish lifestyle of girlfriends, mansions, private jets and yachts.

The same court then considered whether funds held in 29 accounts in Canada, Switzerland, Britain and other countries should be forfeited. The accounts are mainly in the name of Stanford International Bank, which Stanford owned, and in the name of Stanford himself.

One of the accounts, called "Baby Mama," was in the name of Rebecca Reeves-Stanford, the mother of two of Stanford's children.

During the forfeiture proceedings, prosecutors said they traced the money in the accounts back to deposits in Stanford International Bank.

But Stanford's defense lawyers said the former financier's business was viable until the government shut it down and seized its U.S. assets in February of 2009.

SOMBER

Stanford looked somber as the jury delivered its forfeiture verdict. He shook his head repeatedly as U.S. District Judge David Hittner thanked the attorneys for presenting what he called an academically rigorous case over the past six weeks.

Robert Scardino, one of Stanford's lawyers, said afterward that he would consider appealing a ruling by Hittner in December that Stanford was competent to be tried. "Our client spent almost nine months in a mental facility in North Carolina before trial," he said. "We had 30 days with a competent client."

While awaiting trial, Stanford suffered a brain injury in a fight with another inmate. He then became addicted to an anti-anxiety medication. The combination left him without memory of events before the fight, making him unable to help with his defense, his lawyers said

Thursday's verdict kicks off what is likely to be a long process for investors hoping to recover lost money.

Receiver Ralph Janvey is pursuing funds for investors in the United States. There are also two receivers in Antigua who are pursuing the same foreign bank accounts that the U.S. government would like to seize.

Janvey has just $113 million cash on hand, so the $330 million in foreign accounts could be the largest pool available to Stanford investors.

"We're all pretty devastated as a family," Stanford's mother, Sammie Stanford, told reporters on Thursday. She and one of Stanford's daughters later left the court, carrying the suits and shirts Stanford wore during the trial.

The case is USA v. Stanford et al, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, No. 09r-00342.

(Reporting by Anna Driver, Erwin Seba and Chris Baltimore; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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