By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
HOUSTON, Texas – Fallen financier R. Allen Stanford and his right-hand-man, James M. Davis, face off this week in court in an almost Shakespearian plot.
Davis, who once lived and worked in Northeast Mississippi, was Stanford’s chief financial officer and former Baylor University roommate. He is remembered for his personal charm, fast-talking optimism and grand plans to revive Baldwyn just east of his mansion home.
He, Stanford, Baldwyn native Laura Pendergest-Holt, his former chief investment officer, two other former Stanford Financial Group executives and an Antiguan ex-bank regulator faced nearly two dozen criminal charges in 2009 associated with the financial empire’s collapse and the apparent disappearance of $7.2 billion in investors’ money.
“A Ponzi scheme” is what government prosecutors and a Dallas civil court call it.
A personal nightmare may be closer to what it’s called by more than 22,000 worldwide investors, many who lost their entire life savings and retirement funds. More than 1,000 are Mississippians making investments through offices in Tupelo, Jackson and Memphis, Tenn.
Today, just Stanford is on trial on narrowed 14 counts, including mail and wire fraud, and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. He was once considered one of the United States’ wealthiest people, with an estimated net worth of more than $2 billion.
The trial began last week in Houston, where Stanford’s empire made its headquarters in a fancy green-marble and brass appointed high-rise across from the famed Galleria shopping mecca.
Stanford insists Davis is the bad guy. Davis is likely to testify that Stanford told him to do it – falsify many years of financial reports to reflect the company’s financial stability and inflated returns to investors.
The others, except Davis, are slated for separate trial in June. Davis is the government’s key witness after an August 2009 guilty plea for his criminal sins in the alleged scam. He won’t be sentenced until after his testimony.