Ponzi Scheme or Brick-and-Mortar Financial Empire? Judge Splits the Difference in Stanford Sentencing

At least by this math: Prosecutors recommended a 230-year sentence for convicted financial fraudster Allen Stanford; Mr. Stanford argued that he had not, ahem, operated a Ponzi scheme* but “a real brick-and-mortar global financial empire,” and asked for time served, or about 3 years. So you know, 230 plus 3, divided by 2…and it looks like Mr. Stanford came out ahead in the bargain!

Mr. Standford, of course, is the former Texas billionaire convicted of 13 counts of fraud, using fraudulent bills of deposit at his offshore bank to swindle 30,000 investors in 113 countries. Also a former Knight of Antigua and noted cricket enthusiast who owned his own professional cricket team, plus jets, yachts and other knightly trappings.

Even in sentencing, Mr. Stanford refused the allure of contrition, blaming the government for the fall of Stanford International Bank, and telling the court, “If I live the rest of my life in prison, I will always be at peace with the way I conducted myself in business.”

*According to a defense memo: “In a Ponzi scheme, a swindler promises a large return for investments made with him. …The payments are not financed through the success of the underlying venture but are taken from the corpus of the newly attracted investments.” And: “It was clearly shown at trial that Stanford actually made investments.”

Still, Mr. Stanford can take heart (or eat his heart out) knowing that his sentence is dwarfed by the 150 years handed down to Bernie Madoff.