(Adds details, background, lawyer's quote)
MIAMI Feb 12 Two employees of the Stanford
Financial Group run by accused businessman Allen Stanford were
acquitted in Florida on Friday of charges they obstructed
justice by shredding documents belonging to the company.
Former billionaire Stanford, who controlled the company
bearing his name, was arrested in June 2009 on charges of
operating an alleged $7 billion Ponzi scheme. He is in jail in
Houston while awaiting trial, and also faces civil fraud
charges filed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
A U.S. federal judge in Fort Lauderdale on Friday cleared
Stanford security chief Thomas Raffanello and technology
officer Bruce Perraud of four counts of conspiracy, obstructing
justice and destroying records, lawyers said.
Judge Richard Goldberg said prosecutors had failed to prove
"The judge made a ruling that there was not sufficient
evidence to allow the jury to decide the case," Ed Shohat, the
defense attorney for Perraud, told Reuters.
Raffanello, who was chief of the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration's Miami office before becoming Stanford's
security director, and Perraud had faced up to 40 years in
prison if convicted on all counts.
They were accused of illegally shredding thousands of
documents at Stanford Financial Group's Fort Lauderdale offices
in February, six days after a court-appointed receiver ordered
employees to preserve all records.
The receiver took over after the Texas-based company was
accused of operating a $7 billion Ponzi scheme that bilked
investors who bought certificates of deposit from Stanford
International Bank, the company's bank in Antigua.
The indictment charged that Raffanello ordered the
destruction of all documents at the Fort Lauderdale office and
Perraud supervised the shredding of papers loaded into a
Their lawyers argued that no crime occurred since all of
the documents had been preserved through electronic copies that
were given to the receiver.
(Reporting by Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Carol Bishopric)