Federal prosecutors say a bid by accused Ponzi mastermind Allen Stanford to delay his criminal trial until late April ignores the interests of thousands of investors in the alleged $7 billion scam.
Attorneys for Stanford, who last week was ruled competent to stand trial following eight months in drug treatment, asked for the delay to give their client more time to prepare. He faces 14 counts in the scheme centered on allegedly bogus certificates of deposit. The trial is currently set for January 23.
"The public's interest in a speedy trial is particularly acute in this case in which thousands of individuals who purchased CDs from Stanford have lost billions of dollars," writes Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregg Costa in a court filing today. "This trial will decide not just whether Stanford is guilty of the criminal charges but also whether hundreds of millions of dollars of investor funds currently frozen in foreign countries will be forfeited and returned to the victims."
Prosecutors say the alleged Stanford fraud is the second largest in U.S. history, surpassed only by Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme.
U.S. District Judge David Hittner has promised a ruling this week on Stanford's motion for a three-month continuance.
While Costa said the government does not oppose a shorter delay of four to six weeks, he says a longer delay ignores the interests of the public and the alleged victims.
Those investors--some 28,000 of them--have often found themselves lost in the shuffle of a case that has been marked by bizarre twists and unusual delays.
Stanford was indicted in June, 2009 and detained as a flight risk, but he was severely beaten by another inmate and then became addicted to prescription drugs while in custody. On Thursday, Hittner ruled Stanford has sufficiently recovered from his injuries and his addiction, and is fit for trial.
Meanwhile, the investors are locked in a dispute with the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), which insures U.S. brokerage accounts, over whether their losses should be covered.
With the insurance coverage and Stanford's trial still undecided, the investors have recovered just pennies on the dollar, nearly three years after the alleged scam was first exposed.