Stanford Group accused of fraud by SEC

R. Allen Stanford, a flamboyant Texas financier who has major operations in downtown Miami, was accused of an $8 billion "massive ongoing fraud" selling high-yield certificates of deposit in his Antiguan bank and lying about how the proceeds were invested.

The Securities & Exchange Commission alleged that Stanford ran the massive scheme with James M. Davis, of Baldwin, Miss., who is the bank's chief financial officer, and Laura Pendergest-Holt, also of Mississippi, who is chief investment officer for the bank and its Stanford Financial Group affiliate.

The SEC told a federal judge in Dallas that Stanford and Davis have refused to cooperate with the agency's efforts to determine whether the $8 billion in investor funds still exists.

The judge appointed a receiver over the bank and its affiliated Houston-based Stanford Group Co., which is a broker dealer and investment advisor, and Stanford Capital Management, also an investment advisor, and froze all their assets.

U.S. marshals swarmed the Houston headquarters of Stanford on Tuesday to secure records and computers.

At the heart of the investigation are CDs issued by Stanford International Bank, which claims to have 30,000 clients in 131 countries. The CDs paid "improbable and unsubstantiated high interest rates" ranging from 11.4 percent to 16.5 percent between 1993 and 2005, and were sold by a web of brokers who collected hefty commissions for touting them, federal regulators alleged. Stanford claimed to invest the CD proceeds to buy safe, liquid assets, but instead invested in real estate and private equity, according to the SEC.

"The Miami operation was an important focal point for international investors, especially from Latin America" said Bowman Brown, a Miami attorney, who has several clients who bought CDs from the loosely regulated Antiguan bank. "The consequences, particularly in Venezuela and also in Colombia and other Caribbean jurisdictions, will be significant."

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