HOUSTON -- Disgraced Houston financier R. Allen Stanford has decided he will not take the stand in the federal courtroom where he s on trial for allegedly cheating investors out of billions of dollars.

His attorneys had told jurors in their opening statements last month that Stanford would testify on his own behalf. But they had been cagey about whether they would follow through with that promise until late Monday afternoon, when they told the court that the one-time billionaire would not be the final witness at the trial winding to a close in downtown Houston.

His lawyers delayed announcing their decision as long as they could, apparently unsure about whether their client would take the risky step of testifying. They even asked the judge presiding over the case if they could wait until the end of the day to decide whether Stanford would take the stand, but their last-minute request was abruptly rejected.

I need to know right now, said U.S. District Judge David Hittner. Is your client going to take the stand or not?

Stanford then briefly conferred with his lawyers outside the courtroom before his attorneys announced his decision. They rested their case shortly afterward.

Stanford stands accused of orchestrating a massive international Ponzi scheme, defrauding investors out of more than $7 billion. His financial empire, stretching from a Galleria office building to banking interests in Antigua, sold high-rate certificates of deposit to investors and promised their money would be conservatively invested.

But federal prosecutors allege Stanford misled investors and funneled more than $2 billion to himself and his businesses, bankrolling a lavish lifestyle that included several yachts and private jets. The government s fourteen-count indictment also claims Stanford bribed auditors and Antiguan bank regulators.

Jurors have sat through a month of often arcane testimony picking apart Stanford s financial records. They ve heard not only from investors who lost their money, but also from the company s chief financial officer, who cut a plea deal with prosecutors in exchange for damaging testimony against Stanford.

Earlier in the day, defense attorneys called an expert witness who testified that prosecutors have shown the jury misleading charts indicating that most of Stanford s reported assets were a sham.

Companies have value and they don t just go away, poof, said Len Lyons, a forensic accounting expert hired to help the defense.

Lyons also testified that the $2 billion Stanford s accused of loaning himself were actually investments in his businesses. He repeatedly said testified that graphs prosecutors presented in court gave jurors false impressions.

It s very misleading, Lyons said.

Prosecutors challenged Lyons during a lengthy and detailed cross-examination, eliciting testimony in which Lyons revealed that he s billing the government $350 an hour and his firm has billed between $600,000 and $700,000 on the Stanford case.

Closing arguments are scheduled Wednesday morning. The long and complicated case against R. Allen Stanford is expected to go to the jury Wednesday afternoon.

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