|Copyright:||The Associated Press. All rights reserved.|
HOUSTON — Attorneys representing jailed Texas financier R. Allen Stanford continue falling by the wayside as he awaits trial on charges he bilked investors out of $7 billion as part of a massive Ponzi scheme.
In a motion filed Tuesday in federal court, Stanford is again asking for new attorneys, his fourth set of lawyers in less than a year.
Kent Schaffer, who along with George Secrest currently represent Stanford, said they are more than happy to step aside because there was tremendous conflict between them and Stanford over how the case should be tried.
“Mr. Secrest and I believe our strategy in trying the case is important,” Schaffer said. “Mr. Stanford has his own ideas. We’re happy he’s found lawyers who want to do it the way he wants to do it.”
Schaffer said the change “feels sort of like Christmas in March.”
Stanford is asking to now be represented by Houston-based attorneys Michael Essmyer and Bob Bennett.
U.S. District Judge David Hittner has yet to make a ruling on the motion.
Essmyer did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
Stanford and other executives of the now-defunct Houston-based Stanford Financial Group are accused of orchestrating a Ponzi scheme by advising clients to invest more than $7 billion in certificates of deposit from the Stanford International Bank on the Caribbean island of Antigua.
Investors from 113 countries were promised huge returns on their CDs and that their investments were safe.
But authorities say Stanford and the executives fabricated the bank’s balance sheets, bribed Antiguan regulators and misused investors’ money to pay for his lavish lifestyle.
Stanford and the three executives have pleaded not guilty. Jury selection in their trial is set for Jan. 24, 2011.
Another former executive, James M. Davis, has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors.
Stanford has been jailed since being indicted in June on various charges, including wire and mail fraud.
His first attorney, high profile Houston criminal defense attorney Dick DeGuerin, was on the job for less than three months, leaving after failing to get assurances he would get paid.
Stanford, once considered one of the wealthiest men in the U.S. with an estimated net worth of more than $2 billion, had all his assets seized by authorities.
Hittner appointed Schaffer and a federal public defender.
After assurances Schaffer would be paid through an insurance policy from Lloyd’s of London that Stanford’s company had, to pay for up to $100 million in legal fees if executives were ever accused of crimes, the federal public defender was let go and Schaffer and Secrest were hired by Stanford.
Schaffer decline to give specifics on the conflict with Stanford.
“It got to the point where the relationship was not workable and it was not worth it to stay on the case,” he said.
Lloyd’s of London had appealed a ruling by Hittner ordering the insurer to pay legal fees for Stanford and the other executives. The insurer said the policy doesn’t pay on charges of money laundering, which Stanford and the other executives are accused of doing.
Earlier this month, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled the insurer must continue paying the legal fees until a lower court determines if money laundering was committed, invalidating the policy.
In addition to his attorney woes, Stanford has also suffered various health problems since being jailed, including an irregular heartbeat and high pulse, and a concussion, broken nose and two black eyes after getting into a jail fight.