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Billionaire on fraud charges in Texas

AMERICAN billionaire R. Allen Stanford has been returned to Texas by United States authorities to face federal charges that he ran a US$7 billion scheme to defraud investors with his international banking empire.

Stanford arrived in the Houston area on Tuesday and is being held in the Montgomery County Jail in nearby Conroe, said Dick DeGuerin, his attorney.

Stanford was transferred by US Marshals from Virginia, where he was arrested last week by the FBI after being indicted in Houston on charges that his banking empire was a pyramid scheme.

He is scheduled to make his first court appearance in Houston federal court at 11am EDT today, DeGuerin said. Stanford appeared in court last week in Virginia, where a magistrate judge ordered he be held in custody until a bond hearing in Houston.

DeGuerin said it has been a rough few days for his client since his arrest.

"He's been held incommunicado since Friday and he's been transferred to five jails in four days," DeGuerin said. "He's not been allowed to use the phone. He has had no sleep."

DeGuerin said all of this could have been avoided if federal authorities had taken Stanford into custody during one of the several occasions he offered to turn himself in, including on April 30 when he went with DeGuerin to the federal courthouse in Houston but was turned away.

"This was entirely unnecessary," DeGuerin said. "Yet the prosecution insisted on doing it the hard way."

But authorities weren't able to take Stanford into custody until charges were filed against him or he was indicted, which didn't happen until June 18. Three executives of Houston-based Stanford Financial Group and a former bank regulator from Antigua also were indicted.

They are accused of orchestrating a massive fraud by misusing most of the US$7 billion they advised clients to invest in certificates of deposit from the Antigua-based Stanford International Bank.

The indictment charged Stanford and the others with falsely claiming to have grown US$1.2 billion in assets in 2001 to roughly US$8.5 billion by the end of 2008. The operation had roughly 30,000 investors, officials said.

Stanford faces as much as 250 years in prison if convicted on all 21-counts in the indictment, said officials.


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