Ponzi scheme
Ponzi schemes leave their victims in financial ruin and their perpetrators, if caught, with lengthy prison terms such as the 110-year sentence given today to Ponzi schemer and former Texas billionaire Allen Stanford. What is a Ponzi scheme? Wikipedia

Allen Stanford, a onetime billionaire financier and founder of Stanford Financial, was sentenced to 110 years in prison for fraud Thursday.

U.S. District Judge David Hittner in Houston handed down the sentence to Stanford, who in 2009 became the subject of several fraud investigations.

On Feb. 17, 2009, Stanford was charged by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission with multiple violations of U.S. securities laws, including massive ongoing fraud involving $8 billion in certificates of deposits.

Later that month, the SEC revised its complaint to describe the fraud as a massive Ponzi scheme, echoing the scandal then exploding around Bernard Madoff.

Stanford, who surrendered to authorities on June 18, 2009, was convicted this March on all charges except a single count of wire fraud.

While prosecutors had requested that the ex-tycoon get 230 years in prison, the judge decided 110 years would be sufficient enough.

During the afternoon proceedings, Stanford's attorney, Ali Fazel, objected to the label Ponzi scheme, but Hittner said the evidence offered at the trial justified the term.

Stanford, speaking on his own behalf, also took a moment to apologize to his depositors, employees and family. But the Bernie Madoff wannabe also suggested to the court that he wasn't a thief and that I never defrauded anyone.

One of the victims, Jaime Escalona, who represented Latin American victims, addressed the court. Looking at Stanford, he declared, You, sir, are a dirty, rotten, scoundrel.

The other victims' spokeswoman, Angela Shaw of the Stanford Victims Coalition, said of Stanford, He took our lives as we knew them.

Having been in prison since 2009, Stanford has learned the hard way what a life of crime can do to you, mentally as well as physically. Long before his trial, Stanford was severely beaten by another inmate. He was hospitalized and later transferred to the federal prison medical facility in Butner, N.C., as result of an addiction to anti-depressants, which he developed after the beating.

In a most convenient move, Stanford's lawyers then claimed that the trauma sustained from his injuries left their client unable to remember anything. The trial was delayed a year before government psychologists determined he was faking it and a court date was set.

In further complications, Stanford's defense team requested to be released from their role in the case, just 12 days before the trial was set to begin.

The lawyers wanted out on the grounds that budget restrictions were hurting their ability to defend him. Prior to that, a number of expert witnesses for the defense said they too wanted to quit because they were not being paid by the government. Eventually, some money was released and Stanford was off to trial.

Stanford is planning to appeal the verdict with a newly appointed public defender, according to Forbes.