Former jet-setting Texas tycoon R. Allen Stanford, whose financial empire once spanned the Americas, was sentenced Thursday to 110 years in prison for bilking investors of more than $7 billion over 20 years in one of the largest Ponzi schemes in U.S. history.
U.S. District Judge David Hittner handed down the sentence during a court hearing in which two people spoke on behalf of Stanford's investors about how his fraud had affected their lives.
Prosecutors had asked that Stanford be sentenced to 230 years, the maximum sentence possible, after a jury convicted the former billionaire in March on 13 of 14 fraud-related counts.
Stanford's convictions on conspiracy, wire and mail fraud charges followed a seven-week trial.
Stanford's attorneys had asked for a maximum of 44 months, a sentence he could have completed within about eight months because he has been jailed since his arrest in June 2009.
During Thursday's sentencing hearing, Stanford gave a rambling statement to the court in which he denied he did anything wrong.
Speaking for more than 40 minutes, Stanford said he was a scapegoat and blamed the federal government and a U.S. appointed receiver who took over his companies for tearing down his business empire and preventing his investors from getting any of their money back.
"I'm not here to ask for sympathy or forgiveness or to throw myself at your mercy," Stanford, 62, told Hittner. "I did not run a Ponzi scheme. I didn't defraud anybody."
Calling Stanford arrogant and remorseless, prosecutors said he used the money from investors who bought certificates of deposit, or CDs, from his bank on the Caribbean island nation of Antigua to fund failed businesses, bribe regulators and pay for a lavish lifestyle that included yachts, a fleet of private jets and sponsorship of cricket tournaments. Stanford's net worth was once estimated at more than $2 billion.
The jury that convicted Stanford also cleared the way for U.S. authorities to go after about $330 million in stolen investor funds sitting in the financier's frozen bank accounts in Canada, England and Switzerland. But due to legal wrangling, it could be years before the more than 21,000 investors recover anything, and whatever they ultimately get will only be a fraction of what they lost.
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