By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – R. Allen Stanford, the failed financier who once proudly bore the knighthood title “sir,” will spend the rest of his life in prison for his role in a $7.2 billion Ponzi scheme.
Stanford, 62, wearing a green jail jumpsuit, stood before U.S. District Judge David Hittner on Thursday in Houston, Texas, to hear his sentence of 110 years and $5.9 billion personal judgment.
“It’s my hope that 100 years will keep him in there” until he dies, said Al Pleasants of Tupelo, who with his wife Beverly lost $425,000 in investments when Stanford’s empire collapsed in 2009.
Soon after the sentence was announced, Pleasants said, “it’s just one step in this saga as victims,” who will live with the scars long after Stanford is forgotten.
Scores of Mississippi investors – doing business through Stanford offices in Tupelo, Jackson and Memphis – were among the 30,000 victims worldwide bilked across two decades.
They continue to try to get their money back through the court-appointed receiver, a victims’ coalition and SIPC, a quasi-public insurance fund supported by the investment industry.
To date, few, if any, of them have seen any return on their losses.
A federal jury convicted Stanford on March 6 of 13 of 14 counts from wire fraud and money laundering to conspiracy to obstruct a U.S. investigation. A few days ago, prosecutors asked Hittner to sentence him to 230 years in prison.
He is “utterly without remorse,” they said, and “treated victims like roadkill.”
Thursday, his attorneys urged Hittner to make it 10 years.
Although Stanford’s attorneys are likely to appeal his conviction in the town where he built his financial empire, Stanford remains in federal custody until the U.S. Bureau of Prisons decides where he’ll serve the time.
Because he was declared indigent, Stanford’s appeal will be paid by the public.
Tupelo’s Walt Walton was retired but had to go back to work after he lost more than $430,000 in certificates of deposit through Stanford International Bank Ltd., based in Antigua.
Walton and many other Stanford victims have filed federal and state lawsuits to try to recover their losses, but so far the receiver hasn’t approved many to proceed. Most have been dismissed with the provision they could be filed again.
After the company’s collapse, some advisers reported they did not know the SIBL investments were fuel for Stanford’s lavish lifestyle and dividends for earlier investors.
One Stanford victim, Jaime Escalona, who represented thousands of Latin American investors, called Stanford “a dirty, rotten scoundrel” as he addressed the court.
Prior to hearing his fate, the tall, former playboy businessman spoke in the courtroom for the first time since his trial began in late January.
“I’m not asking for sympathy,” he said. “I am not a thief.”
Stanford also expressed sympathy for “depositors, employees, families and my own family,” some seated in the audience.
Fighting back tears, he told the court, “I never defrauded anyone.”
The courtroom brimmed with media and black-garbed former investors.
Many said they incorrectly thought their investments were insured.
Hittner continued his gag order on both sides’ attorneys because four other Stanford co-defendants – including Baldwyn native Laura Pendergest-Holt, the former chief investment officer – are scheduled for trial on similar charges.
Stanford Victims Coalition leader Angela Shaw also spoke to the court before Stanford’s sentence was pronounced.
“He took our lives as we knew them,” she said.
Stanford spoke on his own behalf nearly 45 minutes.
“If I spend the rest of my life in prison,” he told the court, “I will always be at peace with the way I conducted myself in business.
“I never defrauded anyone.”
Stanford’s attorneys insisted he intended to repay the billions he “borrowed” from the bank, which garnered its revenues from its CD purchases.
In court Thursday, the judge said he’d received hundreds of letters from Stanford victims, as well as letters of support from his family and clergy.
Prosecutors told Hittner that Stanford’s money “didn’t grow on trees, it came from people.”
Still to be sentenced is former Union County resident James M. Davis, who was Stanford’s longtime confidante and chief financial officer.
Davis pleaded guilty in August 2009 and testified against Stanford in Houston. He is expected to testify at the others’ trial, too, set to begin Sept. 10 in Houston.
He faces up to 30 years in prison but is not likely to be sentenced until that’s over.