- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 1, 2009

HOUSTON (AP) — Texas financier R. Allen Stanford could spend up to the next year in jail awaiting his trial on charges he allegedly swindled investors out of $7 billion.

In a written order, U.S. District Judge David Hittner ruled Tuesday that Stanford is a “serious flight risk” and granted a request by prosecutors to reverse a decision last week by a magistrate judge to grant the once highflying financier a $500,000 bond.

Stanford has been in custody since being indicted and arrested June 18.

“There is no condition or combination of conditions of pretrial release that will reasonably assure his appearance as required for trial,” Hittner wrote in his 13-page order.

Dick DeGuerin, Stanford’s attorney, said he was disappointed with the decision and would appeal it to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Jury selection in the trial of Stanford and his co-defendants is set for Aug. 25. But DeGuerin said preparing for the trial could take up to a year.

Stanford and three executives of his now defunct Houston-based Stanford Financial Group are accused of orchestrating a massive Ponzi scheme by misusing most of the $7 billion they advised clients to invest in certificates of deposit from the Stanford International Bank in the Caribbean island of Antigua.

Prosecutors told Hittner on Monday that Stanford is a serious flight risk because of his international ties — including holding dual U.S. and Antiguan citizenship, having an international network of wealthy acquaintances and possibly having access to vast wealth hidden around the world.

Stanford was considered one of the richest men in America with an estimated net worth of more than $2 billion.

But DeGuerin said his client is now penniless, has never tried to flee and wants to fight the charges against him. He denied prosecutors’ claims Stanford has access to secret wealth stolen from investors and said his client ran a legitimate business.

DeGuerin also told Hittner his client, who hadn’t resided in the U.S. in 15 years, now lives in Houston and has strong family ties here.

Hittner wrote these family ties “are tenuous at best.”

Stanford and executives Laura Pendergest-Holt, Gilberto Lopez and Mark Kuhrt pleaded not guilty last week to charges filed in a 21-count indictment.

Also indicted is Leroy King, the former chief executive officer of Antigua’s Financial Services Regulatory Commission. King, accused of taking bribes from Stanford to overlook irregularities at his bank, is awaiting extradition to the United States.

Stanford and his co-defendants are charged with wire fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy to commit mail, wire and securities fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Stanford, Pendergest-Holt and King are also charged with conspiring to obstruct a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation and obstruction of an SEC investigation.

Investigators say Stanford secretly diverted more than $1.6 billion in investor funds as personal loans to himself to pay for his lavish lifestyle.

The indictment also says Stanford and the other executives misrepresented the Antigua island bank’s financial condition, its investment strategy and how it was regulated.

The SEC filed a lawsuit in February accusing Stanford and his top executives of committing crimes similar to those in the indictment.

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