By Anna Driver
HOUSTON (Reuters) - A financial adviser who worked for former financier Allen Stanford testified at his trial on Wednesday that Stanford personally pressured her to bring in new clients for his bank.
Stanford, 61, is accused of selling fraudulent certificates of deposit from Stanford International Bank Ltd, which was based on the Caribbean island of Antigua, in a scheme that lasted for more than two decades. He has pleaded not guilty and his lawyers have portrayed him as a visionary who left details to others.
Michelle Chambliess, whose job was to get clients from Mexico and other countries in Latin America, recalled an incident in 2002 in which Stanford told her and a small group of her colleagues to get more clients by any means.
"Do whatever you need to do. I don't care how you do it. Just don't tell me. I don't want to know," Chambliess recalled Stanford saying.
Chambliess, the first witness in the trial held in federal district court in Houston, said she began selling CDs for Stanford in 1987 and was fired in 2002, the same year as the meeting with Stanford, after her sales lagged targets.
She also told the jury that Stanford signed off on documents to show potential investors that their deposits were being invested in safe, liquid investments. Prosecutors have said that Stanford was engaged in a $7 billion Ponzi scheme and used the proceeds to finance his own lifestyle.
Chambleiss also testified that she became concerned when Stanford International Bank disclosed a $13 billion loan to Stanford in its annual report for 1996, after she had been told the offshore bank would only take deposits and not make loans.
Stanford's lawyer, Ali Fazel, challenged Chambliess' knowledge of the Stanford business and questioned her statement that Stanford directed his salesforce to do whatever it took to raise more CD proceeds.
Fazel asked why she didn't quit after the meeting with Stanford about getting new clients. "Did you turn in your papers right away?" Fazel asked. "Did you say I'm quitting right now, Mr. Stanford?"
She did not quit because she could not afford to, Chambliess said.
Another witness, Leonel Mejia, a graphic designer who started working for Stanford in the late 1980s, testified that Chief Financial Officer James Davis asked him to alter an expired insurance policy to help reassure nervous clients.
When Mejia refused, Stanford set up a shell company, British Insurance Fund Limited, to be the insurer for his offshore bank's clients, prosecutors said.
(Reporting by Anna Driver; Editing by Eddie Evans and Bob Burgdorfer)