U.S. District Court in Houston will be the site of a sadly familiar story with an unusual central figure next month as the trial of Sir Allen Stanford begins. The familiar part is an allegedly 7 billion dollar Ponzy Scheme run by Stanford that bilked thousands of investors of their money. The new twist is Allen Stanford, the former Texas billionaire and sports magnate. Stanford has been knighted in Antigua (and revoked); he owned a Cricket Team that won $20 million in a tournament that saw viewership of his Cricket team top 300 million worldwide, and he has financed competitions in golf, tennis, polo and sailing. Stanford’s empire touched many facets of the sports world.
Allen Stanford recently failed to convince a federal judge that he’s mentally unfit to stand trial. The cricket mogul was ordered to face a jury next month on charges he stole billions from investors. Jury selection is slated to begin on January 23, 2012.
Stanford, principal of Stanford Financial Group, was indicted in the Southern District of Texas on 21 counts, including mail, wire, securities fraud and money laundering, Stanford is also suspected of running another in a long line of full service banks for Americans outside the country and U.S. banking regulation.
According to the BBC, Stanford’s legal team failed to sell the judge on the idea that his mental capacity had been diminished by head injuries he sustained during a 2009 jailhouse beating and the subsequent powerful anxiety medications he was prescribed. U.S. District Judge David Hittner in Houston, Texas says that he found a preponderance of evidence that Sanford is competent to stand trial and able to assist in his own defense.
The ruling came after two and a half days of debate over the extent of brain damage 61-year-old Stanford suffered from the assault and whether he was instead faking memory loss. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregg Costa told Hittner that Stanford only “wants to con his way out of this case the same way he conned investors for more than 20 years.”
Robert E. Cochrane, the psychologist who was Stanford’s lead evaluator at the federal prison hospital in Butner, North Carolina, testified that the former financier failed every test designed to expose fakers.
Stanford’s claim of complete retrograde amnesia, the loss of the memory of what happened before the event, is “remarkable” because it is so rare, Cochrane said. Stanford first reported having lost his memory after he arrived at Butner in February, more than a year after the assault, the government said.
Ali Fazel, Stanford’s lead lawyer, argued that Stanford’s brain trauma and psychological impairments leave him incapable of assisting his lawyers or testifying in his own defense. “Mr. Stanford isn’t running away from anything,” Fazel said. “He wants to fight.” Fazel said.
Stanford claims that he cannot recall some of his children, romantic encounters or business details. He instead retains only partial pieces of memory.
Prosecutors say Stanford skimmed more than $1 billion of investor funds to acquire a fleet of jets and yachts, multiple mansions and a private Caribbean island, as well as to give money to women with whom he had children. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Stanford’s defense team asked Hittner before the ruling to delay the start of Stanford’s trial until late April, if he found the financier fit to face a jury. Hittner said he would rule on that request next week, as well as issue a more complete ruling explaining his decision finding Stanford competent for trial.
The case is U.S. v. Stanford, 09-cr-342, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston).
As a way of adding some sports context, take a look at Stanford’s Cricket credentials. Stanford created and funded the Stanford 20/20 Cricket tournament in the West Indies, for which he built his own field in Antigua. The first Stanford 20/20 Cricket Tournament was held in 2006. The second tournament took place in 2008 with a global television audience of 300 million. Trinidad and Tobago took first place in this tournament.
In 2008, Stanford and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) signed a deal for five Twenty20 internationals between England and a West Indies all star team with $20 million to the team that won the Championship. It was the largest prize ever offered to a team for a single tournament. The Championship was won by Stanford Superstars, who defeated the England team by 10 wickets, humiliating them in the process.
Sources: “Allen Stanford ruled fit for trial over ‘Ponzi scheme’,” published at BBC.co.uk.
Joe Palazzolo reports in the Law Blog WSJ
Indictment: U.S. v. R. Allen Stanford