R. Allen Stanford, the financier known for his wildly flamboyant lifestyle, was sentenced today to 110 years in federal prison for his part in a nearly $7 billion Ponzi scheme. Given Stanford’s age, 62, the sentence means a life sentence.
Stanford appeared in court earlier today to speak to the judge before the sentence was handed down. He rambled on for upwards of 30 minutes, repeatedly denying his role in the affair. He told U.S. District Court Judge David Hittner, “I’m not a thief.” He went on to say that he never defrauded any investors and that it was only due to the government’s “Gestapo tactics” that any investors lost money. He claimed that the Stanford International Group was a legitimate business that was ruined thanks to the government’s decision to freeze its assets.
The lead prosecutor, William Stellmach, took Stanford’s own statements as further evidence of his guilt and lack of remorse. He called the remarks “obscene” and asked that the judge give Stanford the maximum sentence, 230-years.
Though Judge Hittner did not agree to order the maximum sentence, he did hand down a stiff sentence. In addition to the jail time he ordered that Stanford forfeit $5.9 billion, the amount of money his bank claims to have in deposits. Stanford’s victims will then be compensated from the funds that government investigators are able to secure.
Stanford’s sentence was 40 years shorter than the one handed to Bernie Madoff, who, in 2009, pled guilty to a $17.3 billion Ponzi scheme of his own. The defense asked that Judge Hittner only sentence Stanford to 10 year in prison and said that they would be appealing his conviction and sentence.
Prosecutors brought charges against Stanford in 2009 after he concocted a plan to sell certificates of deposit to investors through his bank in Antigua, telling them the money would be invested in stocks and bonds. Instead, the money was put into risky real-estate transactions and some of Stanford’s other businesses. In an attempt to cover things up Stanford bribed an Antiguan regulator and auditor.
In recent years the punishment for white-collar crime has increased substantially, with multiple people being sentenced to several centuries behind bars. Some have questioned the justification for the increase given that such sentences are longer than those typically imposed for murder. The median sentence for murder convictions in the U.S was 178 months, less than 15 years. Prosecutors hope 110 years sends an important message to others who may be contemplating similar acts of financial misconduct.
Read: “Stanford Sentenced to 110 Years in Prison for Ponzi Scheme,” by Daniel Gilbert, published at WSJ.com.
(Lee Davis is a Chattanooga attorney who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 266-0605.)