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International financier R. Allen Stanford was convicted Tuesday on 13 charges of fraud and money laundering in the largest known Ponzi scheme since the Bernie Madoff scandal.
The Wall Street Journal reports that a federal jury in Houston convicted Stanford on all but one count of blowing billions of dollars of investors' cash on a lifestyle known only by the world's richest, which came complete with personal jets, yachts and even sponsored cricket tournaments. The Stanford Financial chairman now faces up to 120 years in prison.
The three-year long criminal trial made headlines last month when Reuters revealed that several major politicians and political organizations from both sides of the spectrum, including President Obama and the Republican National Committee, had refused to return a total of $2 million in donations from Stanford and his associates. The Securities and Exchanges Commission had also brought a civil suit against him for $9.2 billion in fraud back in February 2009, seizing his businesses, boats and a half dozen airplanes.
According to the prosecution, the 61-year-old financier stole from up to 30,000 investors first by selling them certificates of deposit from a bank he controlled in Antigua. Then, Stanford would invest these proceeds in his own businesses and risky real-estate assets.
Stanford, however, has always maintained his innocence, as CNN notes, saying in a 2009 interview that he "would die and go to hell if it’s a Ponzi scheme." His attorneys, who chose to not let him testify in his own defense, argued that their defendant worked a legitimate business and that the prosecution was mistaken in their target. They said Stanford was an absentee chief and that any alleged fraud would have been at the hands of James Davis, Stanford's chief financial officer.