Texas billionaire R. Allen Stanford, whose sprawling banking empire collapsed this year, was indicted Friday for what prosecutors call a $7 billion scheme to defraud investors.
Justice Department officials announced the fraud charges against Stanford, who ran Stanford Financial Group, and six others at a news conference Friday. Also indicted were executives of the company and a former Antiguan bank regulator.
The Securities and Exchange Commission, in court papers Friday, offered new details about the alleged Ponzi scheme, including the bribing of a regulator to turn a blind eye. The agency's enforcement director, Robert Khuzami, said investigators have built "an impressive criminal case from the rubble of this massive fraud."
If convicted of all charges in the 21-count indictment, Stanford could face as much as 250 years in prison, officials said.
Dick DeGuerin, Stanford's lawyer, said in a written statement that Stanford was "confident that a fair jury will find him not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing."
The indictment unsealed Friday in Houston charged Stanford and other executives at his firm "would cause the movement of millions of dollars of fraudulently obtained investors' funds from and among bank accounts."
The firm would give money to some investors "to perpetuate the false appearance that (Stanford's business) was financially sound," according to the indictment.
Court papers charge Stanford and top executives orchestrated a massive fraud by advising clients to buy certificates of deposit from the Antigua-based Stanford International Bank.
Stanford has been working since February to challenge what his attorney called "the false accusations against him." DeGuerin said that rather than resulting from fraud or a Ponzi scheme, "the present insolvency of the Stanford Companies was caused by the SEC heavy-handed actions, which have destroyed and continue to destroy much of the value" of the companies and their investors.
Stanford, in FBI custody after surrendering Thursday, was to appear in federal court in Richmond, Va. later Friday for an initial appearance and to deal with detention issues.
The others indicted were Stanford executives Laura Pendergest-Holt, Gilberto Lopez and Mark Kuhrt.
A separate indictment unsealed in Florida accused a fourth Stanford worker, Bruce Perraud, of destroying records important to the investigation.
Prosecutors charged Leroy King, the former chief executive officer of Antigua's Financial Services Regulatory Commission, with conspiracy to obstruct an SEC investigation.
In February, King told reporters the commission properly scrutinized Stanford's business. "We examine their books on a regular basis. We follow their strategies and up to the last examination we found them in good order," King said.
Prosecutors allege King accepted more than $100,000 in bribes to help Stanford continue his fraud of 30,000 investors.
Criminal charges were also filed Friday against James Davis, chief financial officer for Stanford Financial Group.
The SEC is seeking injunctions against Stanford, Davis, Pendergest-Holt, Kuhrt, Lopez and King, as well as unspecified restitution and civil fines.
The SEC filed civil charges earlier this year accusing Stanford and his top executives of conducting an $8 billion fraud by advising clients to buy certificates of deposit from the Antigua-based Stanford International Bank.
The $7 billion fraud charged in the criminal indictment is the amount the government believes it can prove beyond a reasonable doubt. The $8 billion figure cited in the SEC's civil case is the amount the government believes it can prove by the less stringent civil standard of a preponderance of the evidence.
The SEC's lawsuit charged that the bank advertised its CDs in a brochure touting a conservative investment philosophy. But instead the bank's portfolio was "misappropriated by defendant Allen Stanford and used by him to acquire private equity investments and real estate," the suit says.
An amended complaint by the SEC has accused Stanford and his finance chief, James M. Davis, of conducting a "massive Ponzi scheme" in which early investors were paid returns from money put in by later investors. Davis promised in April to cooperate with federal investigators.
DeGuerin said Stanford surrendered Friday afternoon "to some FBI agents who were hiding out in black SUVs outside the residence where he was staying in Virginia."
"He walked out and asked if they had a warrant," DeGuerin said. He said Stanford told them to arrest him if they had a warrant and said if they didn't he would go back to Houston Friday to turn himself in.
FBI spokesman Richard Kolko declined to comment.
Jeff Tillotson, who represents Pendergest-Holt, chief investment officer of Stanford's parent company, told The Associated Press, "We obviously deny that our client has committed any crime." He has said she was "set up" by Stanford.
Associated Press writers Marcy Gordon in Washington, Larry O'Dell in Richmond, Va., and Linda Franklin and Regina L. Burns in Dallas contributed to this report.
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