The Work

February 17, 2011 5:02 PM

Accused Ponzi-Schemer Stanford Sues Prosecutors, FBI Agents, SEC Lawyers

Posted by Julie Triedman

Former high-flying financier R. Allen Stanford filed suit Wednesday in Houston federal district court against a dozen Federal Bureau of Investigation, Justice Department, and Securities and Exchange Commission employees, claiming that they have engaged in "abusive law enforcement" against him.

In the suit, Stanford--who faces criminal and civil charges that he masterminded a $7 billion Ponzi scheme--seeks $7.2 billion in damages.

Having run through a veritable Rolodex's worth of lawyers since his indictment, Stanford has tapped Houston attorney Stephen Cochell of The Cochell Law Firm for this suit. Stanford's complaint does not name any federal agencies as defendants, but rather targets those employed by the agencies who have spearheaded the cases against him.

Among the individulas sued: Stephen Korotosh, who is leading the SEC's civil suit against Stanford, and federal prosecutors Paul Pelletier and Gregg Costa, who have leading roles in the criminal case.

The 39-page civil complaint, available here, claims that the federal government illegally used more than $51 million of Stanford's money to fund its investigation, while at the same time rejecting Stanford's requests for funds to pay for his own defense.

How did Stanford arrive at the eye-popping $7.2 billion figure? He asserts that he "personally owned assets of approximately $3.9 billion, all of which has been lost" due to U.S. government actions. As a result of those actions, he claims that he lost the ability to realize profits on those assets. He put the value of the lost profits at $3.2 billion.

Stanford also claims that in its pursuit of him the government violated his right against unreasonable search and seizure; against cruel and unusual punishment; his right to counsel; and to due process.

Cochell is a former prosecutor who focuses on criminal and civil litigation; last October, according to the Texas Lawyer, a sibling publication, Cochell and two other attorneys requested to represent Stanford in his criminal case. The judge refused their requests and appointed two other lawyers instead.

Stanford's stay behind bars has been rough. In September 2009, he was the victim of a brutal jailhouse beating that left him with head injuries. Late last month, U.S. district court judge David Hittner in Houston ruled that Stanford was mentally incompetent to stand trial and ordered that he be transferred to a medical facility to undergo psychiatric treatment (click here for The Am Law Daily's story on that ruling.)

But, as Manhattan criminal defense attorney Douglas Burns said in this report by Bloomberg, the suit faces some huge obstacles, most notably the fact that agents of the FBI, the SEC, and the Justice Department "are immune for their legitimate conduct in the case."

Press representatives of the FBI, Justice, and the SEC did not immediately respond to requests for comment.



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