This winter and spring, a goodly diversion from micro and macro fiscal disaster has been watching Allen Stanford's wrigglings on the spit. As you may recall, "Sir Allen"
(so dubbed by Antigua's grateful government in 2006) is accused of raking in billions via a fraudulent pyramid scheme disguised as his international banking and financial services network, Stanford Financial Group. In February, the US Securities and Exchange Commission filed an $8 billion civil-fraud complaint against Stanford, SFG and its constituent companies, and SFG chief financial officer James Davis
and chief investment officer Laura Pendergest-Holt.
The story held extra interest for me because I was then blogging at www.folo.us about doings in Mississippi, and it turned out that Davis and Pendergest-Holt were based in -- of all places -- Elvis Presley's hometown of Tupelo. (What we foloers weren't aware of, though, was Stanford's connection to cricket. Happily, the Man from Porlock had somehow found his way to the blog, becoming a commenter and guest-poster, and he brought us up to amused speed on that.)
Anyhoo, as the SEC case developed, one of the first things to happen was Pendergest-Holt's arrest for obstructing a government proceeding by lying to the investigators. My co-blogger, Mississippi attorney Tom Freeland ("NMC," posting since folo shut down at nmisscommentor.com), exhaustively detailed how that transpired here and at the links included therein. Basically, the boyz seem to have thrown the gull to the wolves -- with the help of a big-foot lawyer, Thomas Sjoblom,
who himself now has a whole lot of splaining to do.
Meanwhile, the constantly-prayerful Davis hied his fanny (and mouth and, no doubt, computer records) to the Feds, reportedly spending eight hours of April 21 negotiating a plea deal.
But Stanford himself has put on the best show. To ABC News last month he bawled about having to fly on a commercial plane for the first time in nearly 20 years (the government having quickly seized his six private jets).
"They make you take your shoes off and everything, it's terrible," he complained about the airport security that apparently came as a surprise to him.
Stanford also strongly denied an ABC News report, citing senior law enforcement officials, that he was under investigation in connection with the alleged laundering of money for a Mexican drug cartel.
"If you say it to my face again, I will punch you in the mouth," he said.
Then backing off, Stanford said, "No, I'm not going to punch you in the mouth. But I'm just saying that's an absolutely, absolutely ludicrous thing to say. Anybody who knows me knows that's the case."
A couple of weeks later, he declaimed to the New York Times:
"It's devastated me to the core of my soul," Mr. Stanford said, "to see over 25 years of blood, sweat and tears -- my life's work -- to be taken from me."
He said the credit cards in his wallet were worthless and he did not even have money to pay his lawyer.
"It's debilitating, devastating, horrific," he said, wearing a double-breasted blue suit and conservative tie, his legs moving constantly. "But I am going to fight for my name and I am going to win."
The anger of the man came close to boiling over when he told a photographer taking his picture that the clicks of the camera shutter made his respond like "Pavlov's dog." He added, "I start to get an itch to grab somebody by the throat." Later in the interview, he asked the photographer if he wanted to take a picture of him strangling the reporter doing the interview.
The Indy even snagged an exclusive with Sir Allen's 30-year-old fiancée, Andrea Stoelker, in the "modest town house" of her parents in Fredericksburg, Virginia, "a far cry from the mansions and castles of his privileged life further south."
"We're lucky to be living on the charity of my family at the moment, but it has been overwhelming," Ms Stoelker told The Independent, in her first public comments since her fiancé's downfall. ...
The Stoelker family has also come out swinging for Mr Stanford. Andrea Stoelker's mother, Kathy, emailed a number of former employees last week with a full-throated defence of her future son-in-law and predicted he would be vindicated.
"Allen's guilt is that of trusting Jim Davis to run the Financial Service Division," she wrote. "This awareness has been devastating to Allen as their friendship began when they were college room-mates and he truly trusted this 'evil' man."
The story notes that Stoelker has "had to endure open season on her fiancé's private life, including a blizzard of reports about his past philandering and infidelities and about the six children he has fathered by various women."
Now usually, when someone is in as much trouble as this guy, a defense attorney's first thought is to hush the accused's mouth. But Stanford's lawyer (who, in hopes of getting paid, has petitioned the Texan courts to be allowed access to Stanford's frozen bank accounts) is Houston showboat Dick DeGuerin. And that, you notice, changes everything. According to the Houston Chronicle, on Thursday the pair of them
marched the few downtown blocks from DeGuerin’s office to the federal courthouse to “surrender” Stanford to federal authorities, even though there was no warrant for his arrest and he hasn’t been charged with any crimes. ...
“We want to surrender him into custody,” DeGuerin told the woman behind the glass at the U.S. Marshals Office on the 10th floor. Stanford stood nearby, his company insignia eagle pin on his lapel.
“We’re doing this to show he’s not running,” said DeGuerin. “He’ll face whatever they’ve got for him.” ...
Several criminal lawyers said they’d never heard of this tactic.
“That’s a new one on me,” said Dan Cogdell, lawyer for Laura Pendergest-Holt, Stanford Financial’s chief investment officer and the only person charged so far with a crime in the Stanford financial scandal. “I wish him luck with that one. Some judges might be bemused, others would groan and roll their eyes.”
Stay tuned. I doubt this gets dull anytime soon.