Accused Ponzi Schemer Lying About Having Amnesia, Say Prosecutors

PHOTO: Billionaire R. Allen Stanford smiles as he is escorted out of the federal courthouse in Houston in this June 29, 2009 file photo.
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Federal prosecutors say R. Allen Stanford, the financier accused of defrauding investors of $7 billion, is mentally competent to stand trial and is faking amnesia, according to court documents.

A competency hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in a Texas court.

Stanford, 61, pleaded not guilty to all charges and later claimed he developed amnesia after a fellow inmate assaulted him in 2009. His defense attorney said in separate documents that the inmate smashed Stanford's face into a pole and threw him onto the concrete floor.

But in their motion to have Stanford declared competent, U.S. attorneys said doctors at the federal prison in Butner, N.C., determined that Stanford was "not credible" when he said he was "completely amnestic to his life prior to the assault." Stanford said he could not remember past romances, vacations with his children or any details about his business operations.

Additional psychological testing, the motion says, prove he was lying and faking cognitive impairments. On some of the tests, he even scored lower than people with brain injuries and dementia.

Defense experts, according to prosecutors, blamed Stanford's poor performance on depression and fatigue. In a separate motion, Stanford's attorney, Ali Fazel, said his client "suffered a traumatic brain injury" in the assault and the medications given to him by prison medical staff, which included anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants, made his condition worse.

Stanford claims to have retrograde amnesia, the loss of memory of events that happened before an injury. Memories from a few days before to even a few years before could be lost with retrograde amnesia.

Cases in which decades of memories are lost are extremely rare, and in most cases, if memory loss is that severe, a person has likely suffered a very serious brain injury.

"In this situation, generally, brain damage is so severe that this person would not be walking, talking, conversing or reasoning," said David Loewenstein, a neuropsychologist and professor of psychiatry at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine. Loewenstein did not evaluate Stanford and was referring to amnesia in general.

While he couldn't comment on whether Stanford is lying about his memory loss, Loewenstein said skilled neuropsychologists can tell the difference between someone truly experiencing amnesia and someone who is faking it.

There are numerous tests available that psychologists and psychiatrists use that assess, among other things, a person's memory, personality and language.

"These tests are very sensitive, and you can tell with a high degree of accuracy whether someone really has amnesia," he said.

Prosecutors said in addition to psychological tests that prove Stanford is faking amnesia, they also have emails, phone calls and other evidence that they say show he does remember events prior to the prison assault.

If a judge rules Stanford is mentally fit for trial, his trial will begin Jan. 23.

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