U.S. Magistrate Frances Stacy had granted Stanford $500,000 bail with a GPS monitoring device and home detention, based on a plea from Stanford's attorney that he was penniless. Hittner didn't buy that plea. Do you really believe an attorney would appeal bail hearings to the circuit court level if his client truly was penniless? I doubt he would spend that much time on bail hearings if he didn't think he would get paid.
Federal prosecutors didn't buy the penniless line and appealed to Hittner to revoke the bail. Hittner agreed and said in his ruling, "Stanford is a serious flight risk and there is no condition or combination of conditions of pretrial release that will reasonably assure his appearance as required for trial."
Stanford is accused of masterminding a $7 billion Ponzi scheme and misusing most of the funds. Three other executives of the now-defunct Houston-based Stanford Financial Group also face charges.
In making the case that Stanford is a flight risk, prosecutors pointed to:
- testimony from a pilot who flew Stanford to Libya and Switzerland before government officials raided his Houston offices.
- testimony from a friend of Stanford's daughter who gave him $36,000 for an apartment rental.
- an auditor's claim that $100 million was withdrawn from a Swiss bank account Stanford controlled.
- a friend who recently got an Antigua passport for him.
British authorities have frozen $100 million in assets linked to Stanford held in London financial institutions. The funds were frozen by the Serious Fraud Office in London in April, but kept secret until after his arrest.
Stanford holds both U.S. and Antigua citizenship. Prosecutors believe his international network of wealthy acquaintances and the possibility that he has wealth hidden around the world makes him a serious flight risk.
Would you give Stanford the option of bail?
Lita Epstein has written more than 25 books including Reading Financial Reports for Dummies.