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Friday, February 18, 2011

Financier Stanford's lawsuit seeks $7.2 billion

Source: Juan A. Lozano (Washingtonexaminer)
Jailed Texas financier R. Allen Stanford has filed a lawsuit accusing prosecutors and federal agents of depriving him of his constitutional rights by using abusive law-enforcement tactics.

He is asking for $7.2 billion in damages.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday comes after Stanford was declared incompetent to stand trial on charges he bilked investors out of $7 billion in a massive Ponzi scheme.

Stanford is accusing U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors as well as two FBI agents, five U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission agents, and 15 other unnamed agents and law enforcement officials. He says they used illegal tactics to prosecute him, seize all his personal and business properties, and prevent him from defending himself in both the criminal and civil cases he is facing.

The jailed financier is accusing federal agents of using more than $51 million of his own seized money to pay for their investigation.

Stanford and three former executives of his now-defunct Houston-based Stanford Financial Group are accused of orchestrating a colossal pyramid scheme. They allegedly advised clients from 113 countries to invest more than $7 billion in certificates of deposit at the Stanford International Bank on the Caribbean island of Antigua, promising huge returns.

Stanford is also fighting an SEC lawsuit filed in Dallas that makes similar allegations. A receiver appointed in the SEC suit seized most of Stanford's assets.

"By subjecting Mr. Stanford to multiple prosecutions for the same offense, defendants have deprived him of his liberty and property," Wednesday's lawsuit says.

Kevin Callahan, a spokesman for the SEC, declined to comment on the lawsuit. A spokesman for the Justice Department did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment. A gag order in the criminal prosecution has barred most individuals connected with the case from discussing it.

Stanford, who has been jailed in Houston since his June 2009 indictment, is being transferred to a prison medical facility for treatment of an addiction he developed while incarcerated to an anti-anxiety drug.

A federal judge last month declared that Stanford was not competent to stand trial. The judge ruled that Stanford's addiction, as well as a brain injury he suffered in a September 2009 jail fight and a major depressive order he is suffering, have left him unable to think clearly or help his attorneys prepare a legal defense.

The judge's order recommended Stanford be taken to a medical facility at the federal prison in Butner, North Carolina, where jailed financier Bernard Madoff is serving a 150-year sentence.

The Bureau of Prisons website on Thursday listed Stanford as being at a federal transfer center in Oklahoma City. Stanford's trial, which had been set to begin last month, is on hold pending his treatment.

Once considered one of the wealthiest men in the U.S. with an estimated net worth of more than $2 billion, Stanford was declared indigent and given a court-appointed attorney after he lost a separate lawsuit in which he had tried to get an insurance policy to pay for his legal fees.

Stephen Cochell, Stanford's attorney in Wednesday's civil suit, said he is not being paid. But he declined to comment further about the lawsuit, including how much help he received from the financier in preparing it.

Stanford and the executives have pleaded not guilty to various charges, including money laundering and wire and mail fraud.

Stanford's attorneys say he ran a legitimate business and didn't misuse bank funds to pay for a lavish lifestyle, as prosecutors allege.

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