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Defense: Stanford's empire "wasn't a fraud"

Defense attorneys deny prosecution claims Texas financier at center of $7 billion Ponzi scheme By The Associated Press

HOUSTON (AP) ' Prosecutors are set to present their first witness in the fraud trial of jailed Texas financier R. Allen Stanford, who is accused of orchestrating a vast Ponzi scheme and defrauding investors out of more than $7 billion.

Testimony is set to begin Wednesday in the 61-year-old Stanford's trial in federal court in Houston following opening statements a day earlier.

Stanford's attorneys say his financial empire was real and not built on a foundation of lies, theft and bribes as part of an effort to rob investors.

But federal prosecutors contend the financier used money investors deposited in his Caribbean bank to instead fund his businesses and his lavish billionaire lifestyle.

Stanford is charged with 14 counts, including mail and wire fraud, and could face up to 20 years if convicted.

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