Stanford Bail Denied, Feds Probe Congressional Ties

A federal judge has denied an emergency request by attorneys for indicted billionaire Allen Stanford to free their client on bail.

Allen Stanford

Last week's motion asked U.S. District Judge David Hittner to reconsider his earlier decision to deny bail for Stanford. The motion cited Stanford's deteriorating physical and mental health, saying the 59-year-old banker is in danger of a "complete nervous breakdown" following six months in federal custody.

But Hittner, without explanation, denied the motion. Earlier, he had agreed with federal prosecutors who argued Stanford is a flight risk.

Stanford has been in custody without bail since his indictment June 18 on 21 criminal counts.

Separately, the Justice Department has launched a "sweeping" investigation into accused Ponzi schemer Allen Stanford's contributions to members of Congress, and whether he got special favors in return, according to a report in Sunday's Miami Herald.

Justice Department officials were not immediately available to comment on the report, but CNBC has previously reported that Stanford—accused of running an $8 billion Ponzi scheme—was a lavish contributor to both Democrats and Republicans.

Stanford's attorney, Kent Schaffer, tells CNBC while he does not doubt there is an ongoing investigation, "it is going nowhere."

"Allen made contributions to several politicians, but never asked any of them to do anything that was illegal," Schaffer told CNBC in an e-mail.

The Herald report does not say whether any individual members of Congress are under investigation, but notes an e-mail found by investigators dated February 17—the day FBI agents raided Stanford's offices and shut his business down.

"I love you and believe in you," said the e-mail. "If you want my ear/voice—email." The message was signed, "Pete."

Pete, according to the report, is Texas Republican Congressman Pete Sessions, a member of the powerful House Rules Committee and Chairman of the Republican National Congressional Committee.

Sessions received $44,375 in contributions from Stanford and members of his staff.

The Herald reports Sessions did not respond to requests for an interview, and his press secretary could not verify the e-mail because she had not seen it.

The report says Stanford doled out $2.3 million in campaign contributions and spent another $5 million on lobbying since 2001, and prosecutors are investigating whether he received any special favors in exchange for his largesse.

The report says many of the lawmakers have returned the contributions to the court-appointed receiver rounding up Stanford's assets. Others, including New York Democratic Representative Charlie Rangel and Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, have turned over their contributions—$11,800 and $45,000 respectively—to charities.

Other beneficiaries named in the story are New York Republican Congressman John Sweeney, who was married at Stanford's Five-Star Restaurant in Antigua in 2004; Democrat Gregory Meeks of New York, New Jersey Democrat Donald Payne, and former Congressmen Phil Crane (R-Illinois), Max Sandlin (D-Texas), and Ohio Republican Bob Ney, who pleaded guilty to unrelated corruption charges in 2006.

The article says Sessions, Sweeney, Meeks, Payne, Crane, Sandlin and Ney became known as the "Carribbean Caucus" because of their frequent trips to the region, funded by a Stanford-backed non-profit organization.

Stanford gave $100,000 to President Bush's inaugural committee in 2001, the same year the Treasury Department lifted an advisory citing Antigua's lax money laundering controls.

Stanford largest contribution was in 2002. He gave $500,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, while Democrats were waging an unsuccessful fight to maintain control of the Senate.

Around the time of the that contribution, the article says, a bill that would have allowed state and federal regulators to share details about fraud cases—allowing greater scrutiny of Stanford—died in committee.

(CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the Democrats had won control of the Senate in 2002.)