(Bloomberg News) R. Allen Stanford "flushed" investor money away on failing businesses, yachts and cricket tournaments, prosecutors told jurors who began deliberations on whether the Texas financier led a massive Ponzi scheme.
If Stanford's customers knew what he was really doing with their money, they wouldn't have bought certificates of deposit issued by his Antigua bank, Justice Department lawyer William Stellmach said in Houston federal court yesterday at the close of the financier's five-week fraud trial.
"The truth is that he flushed it away," Stellmach said. "He told depositors he was using their money in one way and the truth was completely different."
Stanford, 61, is accused of leading a $7 billion scheme funded through the sale of CDs issued by Stanford International Bank Ltd. Some of the CDs were sold in the U.S. by the Houston- based securities firm, Stanford Group Co. He faces 14 criminal counts, including mail fraud and wire fraud, that each carry maximum sentences of 20 years in prison.
His attorneys rested their case Feb. 27 without Stanford taking the stand. In his closing argument, defense lawyer Ali Fazel said "there was no deceit and this man is not guilty."
Stanford sat in a packed courtroom dressed in a navy blue double-breasted suit, a light blue shirt and, for the first time since the trial began, a necktie. As Stellmach addressed the jury, Stanford took notes at the defense table, occasionally shaking his head.
The prosecutor outlined for the jury what he called the three big lies of the alleged scheme: Stanford was making safe, liquid investments; clients' money was protected by banking regulators and auditors; and Stanford had sufficient assets to repay investors.
"For him, the bank was his own personal ATM," Stellmach said. Before he was indicted, Stanford ranked among the world's richest people by taking depositors' funds for his own use, according to the government.
"He was never a rich person; he was a thief," Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregg Costa said. "He was living a billionaire's lifestyle on their money. Fraud is just theft wearing a business suit."