Jurors quizzed ahead of Stanford trial
TEXAS – A United States District judge today began quizzing jurors in the Allen Stanford criminal case that has been ranked the second largest Ponzi scheme in US history.
Stanford 61, has consistently denied any wrongdoing, but US regulators have accused him of using his Antigua based bank to swindle investors of billions of dollars in false certificates of deposit at the International Bank Ltd.
Lead prosecutor Gregg Costa said the government will prove Stanford “obtained CD proceeds under false pretenses”, but his lawyers say they’ll use thousands of bank and business records to show jurors the financier never intended to defraud anyone. They claim no investor lost money until the government stepped in and seized the businesses.
Justice David Hittner began quizzing 80 prospective jurors, looking for persons unbiased by media coverage of what the government claims is the second-largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history.
Only the estimated US$20 billion in investor principal taken by the jailed former investor, Bernard Madoff, ranks larger, according to the government.
The judge told the prospective jurors that the trial would be “very, very challenging” and could last about six weeks.
“It’s about as interesting a case as you can find anywhere in the country,” Hittner said.
Court officials said that 14 jurors will be selected, including two alternates. The alternates won’t learn who they are until the evidence has been presented and deliberations are about to begin.
Justice Hittner has been asking potential jurors whether or not they have ever been to Antigua and Barbuda.
Stanford’s court-appointed receiver in the regulatory case continues to sell assets to help repay investors and creditors. The receiver traded away Stanford’s right to use his own name in business to end a trademark lawsuit by Stanford University.
Stanford had claimed he’s related to the school’s founder, but prosecutors have said they will inform jurors that’s not true.
Prosecutors have also accuse Stanford of skimming more than one billion US dollars in investor deposits to fund a lavish lifestyle, including yachts, a fleet of jets, cricket teams and and to support multiple women,
If Stanford is convicted, prosecutors said they’ll ask to keep him in prison for what amounts to the rest of his life.
He has been in a Texas jail since he voluntarily surrendered in 2009 when he was indicted. Prosecutors say he is a flight risk. (CMC)