A fraudster billionaire faces low bail -- and a pro golfer tries to help

In what should come as a shock to no one, accused swindler Allen Stanford pleaded not guilty to fraud charges in Texas yesterday. The U.S. Magistrate judge who decided Stanford's fate determined that a $100,000 cash deposit and a plan to pay $500,000 was enough for bail (although some outlets are reporting $2 million as the bail).

So Stanford was set to walk free last night -- that is, until the government stepped in. Judge Frances Stacy then stayed the issuance of Stanford's bond because the government feels that the oh-so honest businessman is a flight risk. It appears that a decision will come later today, as the judge put her order releasing Stanford on hold until 4:30 p.m.
Looking at the bail, the initial $100,000 cash deposit came with a stipulation -- that the money come from Stanford's inner circle. "He'll be very motivated not to flee if he raises the money from friends and relatives," Judge Stacy said. The judge also required him to get three co-signers on his bond, his father and "two wealthy family friends." After bail is posted, Stanford must wear a GPS-monitoring device and will be released to the custody of his girlfriend.

At the trial, it was alleged that Stanford controlled a Swiss bank account, from which he withdrew nearly $100 million in the past year. And it's come to light that pro golfer Vijay Singh had offered to sign for part of Stanford's bail, but was denied because Singh, a citizen of Fiji and not the U.S., would have been on the hook if Stanford had fled.

Singh signed an endorsement deal with Stanford in January and has sported the Stanford logo on his clothing, even though he was receiving no further payment from the company. Singh's management company, IMG, stated: "Vijay's opinion is that Stanford has yet to be proven guilty and until then has chosen to act supportively."

So Stanford can post bail as long as he wears a monitoring device, and shacks up with his girlfriend. I'm sure their apartment won't resemble the Spartan digs many of us are used to -- it will probably be closer in line to Bernie Madoff's lavish digs, where he suffered through his own wrist-slap house arrest at the end of 2008.

Like Madoff, Stanford swindled clients out of billions of dollars, and his punishment is a drop in the bucket. If he does get hard time, he'll likely serve it at a minimum-security prison. If Stanford is guilty, the punishment must fit the crime. There's quite a lot of money at stake, and peoples' homes. This crime isn't a trifling matter. Yet it seems likely to be treated as such, given his low bail.

At least the government has decided to oppose the terms of the bail. So there's still a chance that Stanford could be facing real punishment. But don't hold your breath waiting for it.
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