At Least This Financial-Scandal Houstonian Is More Eccentric Than Ken Lay

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Bloomberg is reporting that the Houston-based Stanford Group Co. is under investigation by the Feds. In the aftermath of the Bernie Madoff scandal, both the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority want to know how Stanford can keep paying out 4.5 percent returns on its CDs year after year, global economic meltdown or not.

The company has denied wrongdoing and has claimed the investigation is routine. More details on that front will follow, we are sure, but for now Hair Balls is simply amazed that in company CEO R. Allen Stanford we have had such an eccentric billionaire in our midst for all these years.

Here are 6 things - from Caribbean banking hoo-has to cricket canoodling to an obsession with the weeping wounds of Jesus Christ -- you might not have known about the Mexia-bred billionaire tycoon:

-- Stanford was knighted in the Commonwealth of Antigua and Barbuda, which is also the site of his offsfore banking empire. A dual citizen, Stanford's official title is Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of the Nation. In 1999, he was accused of attempting to take over the company that regulates offshore banking in Antigua, a moved that alarmed US regulatory agencies into issuing warnings about Antiguan banks. That warning was rescinded in August of 2001. Since 1999, deposits in his Stanford International Bank Ltd. Have grown from $624 million to $8.4 billion as of last December.

-- Tom Delay had a close association with Stanford. The financier donated large sums to the Sugar Land Republican and according to Bloomberg, "DeLay's committees paid for flights on Stanford's jets at least 16 times since 2003, including on Oct. 20, the day the former House majority leader was booked in a Houston courthouse on money-laundering charges."

-- His 2006 donation of $2.5 million towards the upkeep of the home of Stanford University's founder Leland Stanford Sr. "raised eyebrows" at the prestigious university. The Houstonian claimed that Leland was "closely related" to his great-great-great-grandfather. Officials at the University denied the relationship. Allen Stanford denied using the school's name to enhance his company's reputation; nevertheless, last year, the university filed suit against the financier for trademark infringement. Specifically, the college wanted him to stop using the name Stanford for his cricket tournaments.

-- This summer Stanford sponsored a $20 million all-star cricket match at Lord's - the English equivalent of Fenway Park. He delivered the cash personally in a helicopter, which he landed at the center of the field. During another match, he cavorted with the players' wives. One of them was reportedly "gobsmacked" to look up from the field to see Stanford dandling his pregnant wife on his knee. Britain's Sky News picks up the tale:

-- In 1998, Stanford met an Antiguan Catholic priest with wounds on his hands and feet Stanford believed to be stigmata. As of 2002, he was carrying a vial of congealed fluids he harvested from the sores.

- John Nova Lomax

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