Years before his banking empire was shut down in a massive fraud case, Allen Stanford swept into Florida with a bold plan: entice Latin Americans to pour millions into his ventures -- in secrecy.
From a bayfront office in Miami in 1998, he planned to sell investments to customers and send their money to Antigua.
But to pull it off, he needed unprecedented help from an unlikely ally: The state of Florida would have to grant him the right to move vast amounts of money offshore -- without reporting a penny to regulators.
He got it.
Over objections by the state's chief banking lawyer -- including concerns that Stanford was laundering money -- regulators granted sweeping powers never given to a private company.
The new company was also allowed to sell hundreds of millions in bank notes without allowing regulators to check for fraud.
What good are regulations if companies can be granted exemption from regulatory oversight?