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James M. Davis, accused of helping financier R. Allen Stanford swindle investors in a $7 billion fraud, pleaded not guilty to criminal charges in a U.S. court and was released on bail.

Davis, 60, who was chief financial officer at Stanford Group Co., one of the companies implicated in the alleged plot, will change his plea to guilty at a hearing before U.S. District Judge David Hittner in Houston within the next two weeks, his lawyer said.

“We don’t have an agreed sentence,” David Finn, Davis’s attorney, said after today’s arraignment. “It’s going to be completely the judge’s call.”

Davis, who prosecutors said faces as many as 30 years in prison, was released by U.S. Magistrate Judge Calvin Botley on $500,000 bond with a $5,000 cash deposit, with his in-laws and son as co-signers. Finn entered today’s plea on Davis’s behalf, repeating his intention to change the plea after the government has time to notify victims, as required by federal law.

Stanford and four other people were indicted by a Houston federal grand jury for their roles in an alleged scheme that included the sales of certificates of deposit through Antigua- based Stanford International Bank Ltd. Stanford has denied all charges of wrongdoing.

Davis, the second-highest ranking executive in the Stanford Financial Group of Companies, was charged separately from the other defendants and waived indictment. During most of today’s proceeding, Davis rocked back and forth on his heels with his hands clasped before him, appearing somber in a black business suit. He left the courthouse holding hands with his wife, Lori, without speaking to reporters.


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