(Adds details, background, lawyer’s quote)
MIAMI, Feb 12 (Reuters) - 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 their case.
“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 95-gallon bin.
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)