By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
HOUSTON, Texas – James M. Davis, the back-slapping chief financial officer of the now-defunct Stanford Financial Group Co., faces the rest of his life Tuesday.
Davis, 64, will hear a federal judge pronounce sentence for his part in a two-decades Ponzi scheme, which cost Stanford investors more than $7 billion.
More than just worthless certificates of deposit, the investments embodied the dreams, life savings and retirement funds of some 20,000 people worldwide.
Last week, a court-appointed receiver said investors are likely to get an “initial” repayment of one cent on the dollar for what they lost when the Stanford empire came crashing down in early 2009.
Davis, who lived in Union County during his final years with Stanford, could get 30 years in prison.
His former boss is serving a 110-year sentence in a high-security facility in central Florida.
Four others were indicted with Stanford.
• Baldwyn native Laura Pendergest-Holt – the company’s chief investment officer. She met Davis in the Sunday school class he taught with his wife, Lori.
Holt avoided trial, pleaded guilty to obstructing a federal investigation of Stanford and is serving a three-year sentence in Lexington, Ky.
• Mark Kuhrt and Gilbert Lopez – chief accounting and finance executives for the worldwide company. Last fall, a jury found them guilty of wire fraud, mail fraud and conspiracies to commit those crimes. They are due for sentencing Feb. 14.
• Leroy King – former chief regulator in Antigua, where Stanford operated his CD-selling bank. Antigua’s High Court authorized King’s extradition to the U.S., but local legal maneuvers have stalled his return for trial in Houston.
As for Davis, who was indicted separately from Stanford and the others, government prosecutors are expected to ask Judge David Hittner for leniency.
Davis was their most important witness against Stanford, Holt, Kuhrt and Lopez. He spent weeks on the witness stand in the two trials and repeatedly admitted his culpability and transgressions as he helped perpetrate the massive looting of investments to fund Stanford’s playboy lifestyle and developments in the Caribbean.
Northeast Mississippi residents may remember a fit, energetic, well-groomed Davis, who presided over investor courtships from Stanford offices in Tupelo, Jackson and Memphis.
On the stand in Houston, Texas, during the 2012 trials, he appeared gaunt and worn, almost a shadow of his former self.
But his testimony was strong and credible.
And he insisted, sometimes under witheringly hot cross-examinations, that along with his personal and professional sins, he had lived and breathed to keep Stanford happy.
After just a few years on the job by 1991, Davis said, he knew they were lying about company finances.
Friday, Davis’ legal counsel, David Finn, officially asked for leniency, saying prosecutors couldn’t have known the whole story without Davis’ almost instant cooperation once he knew he was in the legal cross hairs.
When Davis pleaded guilty in September 2010, he admitted that his crime supported a forfeiture of $1 billion. He promised to help the government secure the billions lost through the Ponzi scheme.
Just a week before Davis’ sentencing, the court granted the government’s request to forego any mandatory restitution by Davis to the thousands of investors, saying it was “impractical” and better handled through an ongoing receivership process in Dallas, Texas.
Davis admitted, in testifying against Stanford, that he had lost everything with the collapse of their financial schemes.
He is, he said, hardly in a financial position to pay anyone restitution.