September 11, 2009 2:31 pm

Raffanello indicted over Stanford probe

The case against Sir Allen Stanford, the Texas businessman accused of operating a $7bn Ponzi scheme, took another turn this week after prosecutors accused a former federal law enforcement agent of obstructing the investigation into the alleged fraud.

Thomas Raffanello, former global director of security at a Florida office of Stanford Financial Group, was indicted on Thursday on three counts, including the destruction of records in a federal investigation, according to a statement released by the Department of Justice.

The DoJ’s indictment claimed that Mr Raffanello directed that documents housed at Stanford Financial Group’s Fort Lauderdale office be shredded, in violation of a court order issued on February 16 that all company records be preserved.

Mr Raffanello is a former agent with the US Drug Enforcement Administration; he played a substantial role in the agency’s drug enforcement cases against Panama’s former military dictator Manuel Noriega and Medellín drug cartel kingpin Fabio Ochoa.

The 61-year-old Mr Raffanello is the second Florida-based Stanford employee to be accused of shredding documents. In June, a federal grand jury unsealed an indictment against Bruce Perraud, a former global security specialist at the Fort Lauderdale office of the Stanford group, accusing him of shredding records sought by prosecutors and regulators in the case against Sir Allen and two of his top lieutenants.

The indictment announced on Thursday supersedes the original allegations against Mr Perraud, who is due to go to trial on September 21, federal prosecutors said.

According to the superseding indictment, Mr Perraud allegedly met a representative of a commercial shredding company on February 25 and supervised as a 95-gallon bin was packed with documents and hauled to the shredder’s vehicle, where its contents were shredded. The indictment also alleges that many more documents and records were brought to the shredding truck for destruction.

An additional charge of conspiracy was added to Mr Perraud’s initial indictment on one count of obstruction to the case launched by the US Securities and Exchange Commission in February. Edward Shohat, Perraud’s lawyer, did not return calls seeking comment on the new indictment. He has previously said his client did not destroy evidence and only disposed of hard copies of records contained on computer drives the company had already handed over to the government.

Mr Raffanello’s lawyer, Kendall Coffey, said his client wanted to schedule his trial for the same day as Mr Perraud, court filings show.

”This indictment is a huge mistake because, even apart from Tom Raffanello’s impeccable reputation during 32 years in law enforcement, there is simply no crime when junk paper is eliminated because all the relevant documents are being stored electronically,” Mr Coffey said in the court filing.

Both Mr Raffanello and Mr Perraud are scheduled to make initial appearances at the US District Court in Fort Lauderdale at 11am local time on Friday.

Sir Allen, who is being held at a detention centre outside of Houston, has denied all the charges against him, as has his co-accused and former chief investment officer of the Stanford group, Laura Pendergest-Holt. But James Davis, the group’s former chief financial officer, last month pleaded guilty to charges laid out in a separate criminal information as part of an agreement with prosecutors.

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