HOUSTON (Reuters) - Texas financier Allen Stanford pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to a streamlined indictment, with a judge rejecting last-minute requests for more time from defense lawyers who have cited budget and time constraints in previous filings.
Stanford, nearly three years after his arrest, pleaded not guilty to 14 criminal counts of fraud, obstruction of a federal investigation and conspiracy to launder money in an alleged $7 billion Ponzi scheme.
The original indictment charged the former billionaire and cricket promoter with 21 counts of fraud and other charges. Federal prosecutors filed the narrowed case in May.
U.S. District Judge David Hittner said Stanford's trial will begin January 23.
Defense attorneys on Wednesday continued to state that Stanford is unable to help them prepare his defense, an argument Hittner rejected.
"I found him competent and therefore we are ready to proceed," the judge said.
Robert Scardino, one of Stanford's lawyers, said the defense fully intends to put their client on the stand at trial to give the jury an opportunity to decide whether he is fit for trial.
Stanford, 61, is accused of running a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors throughout the United States and Latin America through the sale of certificates of deposit from a bank based on the Caribbean island of Antigua.
Late last month, Hittner ruled that Stanford was mentally fit to stand trial after spending eight months at a prison hospital in North Carolina to treat an addiction to a powerful anti-anxiety drug and injuries from a 2009 jailhouse fight.
The case is USA v. Stanford et al, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, No. 09-cr-00342.
(Reporting by Eileen O'Grady and Anna Driver in Houston; Editing by Bernard Orr)