Prior to the financial crisis of 2009, Robert Allen Stanford regularly appeared in the financial media. He built a successful real estate venture in Texas. Then Stanford leveraged moderate success in real estate into a massive financial empire that elevated him to the Forbes 400. Supposedly, his net worth exceeded two billion dollars. All of that ostensible success crashed when prosecutors brought allegations of fraud.
The decisions Robert Allen Stanford made since the government brought those criminal allegations are having a huge influence on his life. Since I don’t know the facts of his case, and since I’m not a lawyer, I won’t make any statements about his strategy to deal with the criminal charges. The responses he made after the government charged him with federal crimes, however, have had enormous implications on his journey through federal prison.
I know a great deal about federal prison, and I know that any white-collar offender can learn lessons from the Robert Allan Stanford case. He made every bad decision a defendant could make. Now he pays a heavy price.
What can other defendants learn from Robert Allen Stanford?
After Stanford’s indictment, he lambasted government authorities in public appearances on television and in the financial press. Those types of reactions, frequently rooted in pride, do not coincide with an easy journey through prison.
I made the same types of bad decisions in the mid 1980s when authorities charged me with federal crimes. I was young and foolishly clinging to delusions that I could talk my way out of the problems that my actions created. As a consequence of the bad choices I made after the prosecutors charged me with crimes, I served a far longer sentence in conditions that were far worse that should have been the case. Stanford is now suffering through similar consequences.
Choices of Robert Allen Stanford
Robert Allen Stanford’s belligerence against the accusations may have been part of a scorched-earth defense strategy. He may have wanted to influence public opinion under the theory that people who yell the loudest are more credible. That strategy didn’t work out so well.
Despite his being charged with a financial crime, as a consequence of his response, authorities chose to confine Stanford prior to his conviction. The government considered him a flight risk. The judge refused to allow him to remain free on bond pending the outcome of his trial. While being held in pretrial detention, Robert Allan Stanford would stand out. The other inmates would notice.
Many media reports would have highlighted the luxurious lifestyle that Stanford lived prior to his criminal lifestyle. He owned jets, yachts, helicopters, and all the possessions of a billionaire. In contrast, most of the people in jail with Stanford would not know such luxury. Some of them would look at a man like Stanford as an opportunity to improve their status. They would consider him prey, someone they could extort.
Unfortunately, many people in prison strive to boost their status by preying upon the weak. A man like Stanford may have been strong in some financial circles at one time. In prison, he would definitely be out of his element.
As a consequence of Stanford’s decisions, he is now serving a 110-year sentence in a high-security penitentiary. If he understood more about the journey at the outset, I suspect he would have made better decisions, resulting in a better outcome.