Stanford victims still waiting to be made whole 7 years later
BATON ROUGE - Next week will mark a somber seventh anniversary when investors in the Baton Rouge area lost everything with the Stanford Financial Group.
Allen Stanford is serving a life sentence for running a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of nearly a billion dollars in our area. The majority of the investors were Exxon retirees, according to attorneys representing the victims trying to recoup their money.
Stanford was convicted four years ago. He'll spend the rest of his life in prison. That's little comfort to the hundreds of investors in the Baton Rouge area trying to make ends meet after they were left with nothing.
A humble home in Zachary is where Kathy Mier and her husband Louis are spending their golden years. It's the home they built back in 1978. They live a life of no frills. Joys come from holidays like Mardi Gras, beautiful camellias, faith and family. Their lives came crashing down seven years ago.
"We have five children," Kathy Mier said. "Our goal in life was to be able to retire and not rely on the government, because our parents never did or our children."
Kathy Mier spent nearly 30 years working as a teacher. Her husband worked 30 years at Georgia Pacific. They are among hundreds of people in the Baton Rouge area bilked out of billions, from Allen Stanford.
The Miers lost $240,000 alone.
Joseph Becker lost well over a million dollars. He recently had to go back to work at age 74.
These victims are among 120 victims being represented by Baton Rouge Attorney Phil Preis.
"One day they were looking forward to retirement, and the next day they had nothing," Preis said.
Stanford's scheme promised returns that seemed to good to be true. The Security Exchange Commission caught on to Allen's antics and in 2009, US Marshals raided office buildings in Houston, shuddering offices across the South. That included the one right here in Baton Rouge.
"Baton Rouge was the major area for the loss of funds in the Stanford Ponzi scheme," Preis said.
Preis remains puzzled that victims of another Ponzi scheme managed to fair better than those who invested with Stanford. After Bernie Madoff got caught, investors were paid about $500,000. Louisiana investors have recovered about a penny on the dollar.
"Baton Rouge is not a money center," Preis said. "These are Exxon retirees. The Madoff people were sophisticated New York investors that did business with brokerage firms up there, and the result has been the SEC and other regulatory authorities have essentially tried to sweep this under the rug."
As victims cope with their losses, they're hoping to recover something as they continue living a nightmare they can't wake up from. Meanwhile, the Miers are taking on their golden years one day at a time, with this message to the jailed Allen Stanford.
"Shame on you," Kathy Mier said. "Shame on you for hurting so many innocent people."
The attorney representing the victims in Baton Rouge says the case was moved to a federal court in Dallas. They are suing people closely tied to Stanford who may have benefitted from his scheme. There are some upcoming hearings, and he's hoping this case will be resolved this year.