HOUSTON -- Texas billionaire financier R. Allen Stanford was sentenced to 110 years in prison Thursday for running what authorities have called one of the largest Ponzi schemes in U.S. history.
The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Judge David Hittner in Houston after a court hearing at which Stanford, 62, spoke, followed by two investors.
In March, a Houston jury convicted Stanford on all but one of 14 fraud-related counts and cleared the way for U.S. authorities to seize millions from Stanford's bank accounts.
Stanford's attorneys had argued that he was a legitimate businessman. But prosecutors convinced the jury that Stanford organized a 20-year scheme that siphoned billions through the sale of certificates of deposit from his Caribbean bank to fleece thousands of investors in scores of countries.
On Thursday, Stanford said government investigators had scapegoated him using "Gestapo tactics" to take him down and "dismembered" his business, the Houston Chronicle tweeted. Stanford said he felt sorry for "depositors, employees, families and my own family."
"I am not a thief," he said, according to the Chronicle.
Stanford, who has been dubbed a "mini Madoff," netted $7 billion, much less than notorious financier Bernard Madoff's $17-billion scheme. But prosecutors argued Thursday that Stanford kept more of his ill-gotten gains -- his net worth was $2 billion, compared with Madoff's $823 million.
Two investors spoke Thursday on behalf of Stanford's victims. When investor Angela Shaw asked fellow investors to stand, half the gallery rose.
Afterward, investor Jaime Escalona addressed Stanford.
"You are a dirty, rotten scoundrel," Escalona said.
Stanford showed no reaction to the investor statements, sipping water and taking a deep breath after his sentence was read.
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