What Do Mitt Romney And "Sir" Allen Stanford Have In Common?
The obvious, of course, is that both Romney and Stanford worked up business models that involved financial manipulation, lax off shore Caribbean islands and Swiss bank accounts. But Sir Allen is headed for another 110 years in prison for his fraud and Romney is headed for electoral victories in America's poorest, least educated and most socially backward states-- basically the South and the Mormon domains out West. We started covering Sir Allen in 2009 when he first got caught in a seven billion dollar ponzi scheme and it was revealed that he had found the most corrupt members of Congress-- from John Boehner to Rahm Emanuel-- to lavish immense amounts of bribery and protection money on. He gave at least a million and a half dollars to the Republican and Democratic election committees, like the corruption-soaked DCCC and NRCC.
Short version: Stanford bought a phony "knighthood" from Antigua and set up an offshore bank there that ran a Ponzi scam and ripped off billions from investors. At the time he was apprehended about 3 years ago, we mentioned that
U.S. prosecutors pointed out that Stanford's business practices put the “integrity of the markets” at risk. Stanford is being held without bail since he is considered a 100% flight risk, already having been apprehended trying to escape on a chartered jet. He's been in jail in Virginia and said he was anxious to get back to Texas, a state where they know how to take care of well-connected rich white people.
The update is that this week he was sentenced to 110 years in prison with no possibility of parole. He isn't taking it well-- nor is he in the slightest bit contrite. In fact, he sounds like a case study in billionaire entitlement.
Jaime Escalona was fleeced so thoroughly by the financier R. Allen Stanford that he could no longer pay for his grandson’s autism treatments, he said in a steady voice in court on Thursday, before turning to the defendant and declaring, “You are a dirty, rotten scoundrel.”
Mr. Stanford took the insult in stride, and stared right back.
Then Angela Shaw Kogutt, who said three generations of her family had lost over $4 million because of Mr. Stanford’s “financial terrorism,” asked all the scores of victims in the federal court gallery to stand before Mr. Stanford to show him their faces of misery. Judge David Hittner of the Federal District Court told Mr. Stanford he was under no obligation to look, but he swiveled his chair toward the victims anyway without a flinch or sign of caring.
For Mr. Stanford, his day in court on Thursday-- the day he was sentenced to 110 years in prison without parole for masterminding a $7 billion Ponzi scheme-- was anything but a time for contrition. Instead, after refusing to testify in his own trial, Mr. Stanford broke his silence to say that unlike Bernard L. Madoff, the most prominent of Ponzi scheme swindlers, “I am not a thief.”
Rather, he said, he was the victim of government “Gestapo tactics” that provoked a run on his Caribbean bank and then sold off his assets at bargain-basement prices. Anyone who lost their money, he said, did so because of the government’s “unnecessary” actions.
“I’m not up here to ask for sympathy or forgiveness,” he said in a rambling statement to the court before the sentencing, intermittently holding back tears and shuffling papers. “I’m up here to tell you from my heart I didn’t run a Ponzi scheme.”
In response, the federal prosecutor William J. Stellmach called Mr. Stanford’s version of events “obscene.”
“This is a man utterly without remorse,” Mr. Stellmach said. “From beginning to end, he treated all of his victims as roadkill.”
A federal jury in March convicted Mr. Stanford of running an international scheme over more than two decades in which he offered fraudulent high-interest certificates of deposit at the Stanford International Bank, which was based on the Caribbean island of Antigua.
Prosecutors argued that Mr. Stanford had consistently lied to investors, promoting safe investments for money that he channeled into a luxurious lifestyle, a Swiss bank account and various business deals that almost never succeeded. Mr. Stanford’s defense lawyers pleaded for a sentence effectively of time served because of the three years he spent in prison awaiting trial. Prosecutors recommended 230 years, the maximum according to sentencing guidelines, for his convictions on 13 counts of conspiracy, wire and mail fraud, obstruction and money laundering. He was acquitted of one count of wire fraud.
The prosecutors heavily relied on James M. Davis, Mr. Stanford’s former roommate from Baylor University, who served as his chief financial officer. Mr. Davis testified that the Stanford business empire was a fraud, with bribes paid to Antiguan regulators and schemes to hide operations from federal investigators. He described how Mr. Stanford had sent him to London to send a fax to a prospective client from a bogus insurance company office to reassure him that his investment would be safe.
...[T]he prosecutors contended that while Mr. Stanford told his clients that their CDs were insured and that the money he invested went into safe financial instruments, he was actually diverting it to his own real estate and private ventures, using more than $2 billion to finance his lifestyle. As prosecutors did in the trial, Mr. Stellmach painted him as a man “who for 20 years orchestrated a massive fraudulent scheme. He corrupted everything he touched.”
Ms. Kogutt and Mr. Escalona, representing two victims’ groups, described how investors had lost their homes, retirements and ability to pay for their children’s and grandchildrens’ educations. They said some victims had become suicidal.
“Mr. Stanford’s heartless actions were coldly calculated and premeditated,” said Mr. Escalona, a Venezuelan who spoke for Latin American investors. Ms. Kogutt, who is from Dallas, said Mr. Stanford “played with our futures as if playing a board game and with our money as if it were Monopoly money. He’s just a common thief.”
It took three years to bring Mr. Stanford to trial because he was severely beaten in a 2010 fight with another federal inmate in a prison outside Houston and then became addicted to prescription antistress drugs. He underwent a year of therapy before Judge Hittner ruled that he was fit to stand trial. The defense said Mr. Stanford could not properly defend himself because he had lost much of his memory.
In an apparent appeal for a lighter sentence, Mr. Stanford said in court Thursday that he had worked hard to recover his memory, though he said it was still like “Swiss cheese.” He spoke of the “toxic mix” of drugs that he been prescribed in federal prison and the assault that led to six hours of surgery.
“This was not three years of pleasure by any stretch,” he said. “I wouldn’t wish it on anybody,” he added, not even the prosecution lawyers.
A couple dozen more billionaires behind bars and this country can get back to its ideals.