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The rise and fall of billionaire Ponzi schemer R. Allen Stanford
The Texas financier, once known for his preposterously lavish lifestyle, faces life in prison for running a Madoff-like scam
Financier R. Allen Stanford is escorted to a federal courthouse in 2009: The Ponzi schemer and Antiguan knight was convicted of fraud Tuesday, and faces life in prison.
Financier R. Allen Stanford is escorted to a federal courthouse in 2009: The Ponzi schemer and Antiguan knight was convicted of fraud Tuesday, and faces life in prison.
Aaron M. Sprecher/Corbis
R

. Allen Stanford was once one of America's richest men, a jet-setter with outlandish spending habits who owned banks and mansions around the world. Not anymore: On Tuesday, a jury in Houston convicted him on 13 counts of fraud, the coda to a years-long saga that started when he was arrested for allegedly orchestrating a $7 billion Ponzi scheme. Prosecutors say Stanford used his network of banks to bilk some 30,000 investors from 113 countries over the course of 20 years, making his Ponzi scheme one of the largest in history. Here, a guide to Stanford's rise and fall:  

How rich was he? 
Very rich. At his peak, Stanford was estimated to be worth about $2 billion. He flaunted his wealth in brash ways, at one time landing "in a golden helicopter at the hallowed Lord's Cricket Ground" in London, bearing a "plexiglass box stuffed with $20 million" for a cash prize, according to The Wall Street Journal. Cricket was something of an obsession for Stanford, and he financed several lucrative tournaments at his stadium in the Caribbean nation of Antigua, where he was practically the patron saint, becoming the nation's largest employer. He was knighted by the island nation in 2006, adopting the moniker "Sir Allen."

What else did he spend his money on?
Among other things, a $100 million fleet of aircraft, and a "vial of congealed fluids from the foot of a priest who he believed bore the stigmata of Jesus Christ," the Journal reports.

What exactly is he accused of?
In 2009, U.S. officials charged that the billionaire's Stanford Financial Group was the front for a massive fraud. Stanford had allegedly told his wealthy customers that they were investing in "safe and conservative" assets, when he was instead pouring their money into speculative business ventures or using it to enrich himself. Like other Ponzi schemes, Stanford used the investments from new investors to pay out the returns for older investors.

Why did it take so long for Stanford to be convicted?
His trial hit several unexpected roadblocks. In 2009, he was badly injured in a prison fight. In early 2011, he was declared unfit to stand trial, after he became addicted to an anti-anxiety drug. He underwent treatment, and his trial finally got underway in December.

What was his defense?
During the trial, Stanford's lawyers claimed that his clients had been set to receive the returns on their investments — it was only the accusations of U.S. government officials that caused investors to lose trust in his business, resulting in its collapse. However, the prosecution relied heavily on the testimony of Stanford's right-hand man, James Davis, who asserted that Stanford had been deeply involved in fraud for years.

What's next for Stanford?
He faces life in prison, though his lawyers say he is planning to appeal. Stanford claims that he is broke, but the jury is considering whether Stanford must forfeit some $300 million allegedly being stowed away in a slew of foreign bank accounts.

Sources: Associated PressBBC NewsThe New York Times, The Wall Street Journal

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