Judge sets Allen Stanford trial for January 2011

HOUSTON Thu Dec 17, 2009 5:14pm EST

1 of 4. Accused swindler Allen Stanford arrives at Federal Court in Houston in the rain December 17, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Donna Carson

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HOUSTON (Reuters) - Alleged swindler Allen Stanford will spend more than a year in custody after a U.S. judge on Thursday set his criminal trial for January 2011, later than prosecutors had hoped.

"This criminal case is going to get under way and it is going to go on schedule," U.S. District Judge David Hittner said at a federal court hearing.

The date was a compromise between Stanford's attorney, who wanted the trial to start in summer 2011, and U.S. prosecutors, who pushed for a September 2010 date.

"The government demands a speedy trial," said Paul Pelletier, a federal prosecutor in the case.

Stanford, 59, has been in custody since June 19, when the government charged him with 21 criminal charges that he ran a $7 billion Ponzi scheme centered on fraudulent certificates of deposit (CDs) issued by his offshore bank in Antigua.

Stanford could face life in prison if convicted on all counts. Stanford in June pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Stanford, wearing a green jump suit, looked haggard and thin when he appeared at the court. His face was scruffy with an unshaven beard. He has been detained for months at a federal facility in downtown Houston.

Bernard Madoff, serving a 150-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to a $65 billion fraud, awaited trial under house arrest in a penthouse on Manhattan's east side.

U.S. prosecutors convinced Hittner that Stanford was a flight risk because of his dual U.S./Antiguan citizenship and his global network of wealthy connections.

Stanford, who was estimated to be worth $2.2 billion by Forbes magazine in 2008, has had his assets frozen since February when the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed civil fraud charges against him.

(Reporting by Anna Driver and Kristen Hays; Editing by Gary Hill, Robert MacMillan and Richard Chang)