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UPDATE: Neighbor 'shocked' at Stanford news

February 20, 2009 12:35 am

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Stanford was reportedly staying in a townhouse in the Heather Hills subdivision in southern Stafford. The home of interest has an American flag flying in front of it. 0220stanfordjump.jpg

Bank of Antigua customers form a line outside the St. John's branch in the Caribbean island of Antigua yesterday. Antigua's prime minister urged people not to panic over a U.S. fraud probe involving R. Allen Stanford. 0220stanford.jpg

Sir R. Allen Stanford (center) chairman of Stanford 20/20 Cricket and the England and Wales Cricket Board, gets out of his helicopter after landing on the grounds of Lord's Cricket Ground in London last June. He's "sir" because he was knighted in Antigua, where he is a citizen.

FROM STAFF and WIRE REPORTS

Accused of cheating investors out of $8 billion, Texas financier R. Allen Stanford could've been anywhere when he dropped out of sight earlier this week.

He has extensive business ties in Latin America and the West Indies, and dual citizenship in the United States and the Virgin Islands.

He was even knighted in Antigua and Barbuda, where he resides and is better known as Sir Allen.

So where does a guy with those kinds of connections go to get away from it all?

Apparently, Stafford County.

That's where FBI agents from Richmond caught up with him yesterday after officials with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission asked for help tracking him down, according to FBI spokesman Richard Kolko.

Stanford, 58, has not been criminally charged with anything. But FBI agents served the billionaire and cricket enthusiast with the SEC's civil claim against him, alleging $8 billion in fraud against as many as 50,000 investors in 131 countries.

A law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said an FBI agent staked out a location in the Fredericksburg area, then spotted Stanford about 1:45 p.m. in a car driven by Stanford's girlfriend.

The agent spoke to Stanford, who was riding in the passenger side, the official said. The agent handed Stanford the SEC complaint, a federal court order freezing Stanford's assets and another order naming a receiver.

Stanford told the agent he understood and would make arrangements to surrender his passport, the official said.

Authorities have said they do not believe Stanford was trying to hide from law enforcement.

CNBC tracked Stanford to a home in the Heather Hills neighborhood of Stafford County late last night. According to county property records, the home belongs to a Bryan Stoelker.

British news reports have identified Andrea Stoelker, a former Stafford County resident, as Stanford's girlfriend and president of the board of directors of a cricket tournament that Stanford sponsors in Antigua.

She graduated in 1996 from Stafford High School, where she was active in sports and academic clubs, according to the school yearbook.

CNBC said the FBI served the papers while the couple was in the driveway of the southern Stafford home.

An encounter last November between a Free Lance-Star reader and Stanford seems to support the idea that his girlfriend has local ties.

The reader e-mailed the paper last night, saying Stanford bought the reader's family dinner at Claiborne's on Nov. 7 after the family agreed to give up its earlier reservation time.

"He introduced himself as Allen Stanford, said he lived in the Virgin Islands and that his girlfriend's parents lived in the area," the reader wrote.

The SEC filed its civil complaint against Stanford, his companies and several of his associates on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Dallas.

The complaint alleges that he sold approximately $8 billion in certificates of deposit by promising investors "improbable, if not impossible, returns."

The claim also accuses Stanford of:

Creating "a complex web" of companies that operated with little outside oversight.

Promising investors their money would be kept in liquid assets--basically cash or assets that can quickly be converted to cash--while actually investing most of the money in private companies and real estate.

Assuring investors that their money was safe from Bernard Madoff's highly publicized $50 billion alleged Ponzi scheme when, in fact, some of Stanford's holdings were invested through Madoff's firm.

"We are alleging a fraud of shocking magnitude that has spread its tentacles throughout the world," said Rose Romero, regional director of the SEC's Fort Worth, Texas, office.

The fallout from the fraud case is already rattling around the global financial system.

Venezuela on Thursday seized a failed bank controlled by Stanford after a run on deposits there, while clients were prevented from withdrawing their money from Stanford International Bank and its affiliates in a half-dozen other countries.

A federal judge appointed a receiver to identify and protect Stanford's assets worldwide, including about $8 billion managed by the Antigua-based Stanford International Bank, which has affiliates in Mexico, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.

Also frozen were assets of Houston-based Stanford Capital Management and Stanford Group Co., which has 29 brokerage offices around the U.S.

In September, Forbes magazine named Stanford No. 205 in its "400 Richest Americans" article, estimating his net worth at $2.2 billion.

According to that article, Stanford lives on a 160-acre, 14-bedroom estate in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and he owns other homes, a yacht and several planes.

Stanford is a larger-than-life figure in the Caribbean, using his personal fortune to bankroll public works and cricket tournaments.

He's also a major player in U.S. politics, personally donating nearly a million dollars, mostly to Democrats. At 6-feet-4 and 240 pounds, he towered over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi while giving her a warm hug at the Democratic National Convention last year.

He operates businesses from Houston to Miami and Switzerland to Antigua, where the government knighted him in 2006 in recognition of his economic influence and charity work.

In an e-mail to his employees last week, Stanford said his company was cooperating with the SEC probe and vowed to "fight with every breath to continue to uphold our good name and continue the legacy we have built together."

Stanford's 81-year-old father, James Stanford, is listed as a company director, but he's not named in the SEC complaint.

"I wasn't aware of the promises [to investors] that the SEC alludes to," the elder Stanford told the Dallas Morning News from the modest Mexia, Texas, home where he was born. "I'm not flamboyant--big cars and fancy homes. My son is more akin to that.

"He's sort of a Boss Hogg-type guy."

He told the Associated Press that he'd be "disappointed, heartbroken" if the allegations against his son turned out to be true.

Staff writer Edie Gross and The Associated Press contributed to this report.





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