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Authorities balk at financier's effort to be freed

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Federal prosecutors are objecting to a request by a Venezuelan financier to be released from prison while he awaits sentencing in July in a Connecticut-based fraud scheme, saying he's a flight risk.

The financier, Francisco Illarramendi, needs access and substantial time to review documents to challenge the loss amount, said his attorney, Stephan Seeger. He said conditions can be set to ensure his client's return to court and denied that Illarramendi, who is in prison in Bridgeport, is a flight risk.

"I need him available more than I can have him available under the conditions that he finds himself in at Bridgeport," Seeger said. "The motion is about his ability to assist his counsel in a very unique financial matter."

Illarramendi, who ran unregistered hedge funds out of Stamford, pleaded guilty in 2011 to several counts of fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice. His biggest client was a pension fund for state oil workers in Venezuela.

The amount of losses has a substantial effect on the length of sentence Illarramendi will receive. Prosecutors did not specify a loss amount in objecting to Illarramendi's request, but noted his plea agreement stated investors and creditors were exposed to the risk of suffering hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.

Prosecutors have said Illarramendi has extensive international ties and could face life in prison. They say Illarramendi already has already estimated the loss could exceed $300 million.

Illarramendi engaged in a multiyear scheme in which he lied repeatedly to investors and creditors as part of a massive securities fraud and made up fraudulent documents to prevent a civil fraud investigation, prosecutors wrote in court papers this week. They also noted that a judge found earlier that he violated his bail conditions.

"Not only is Illarramendi a defendant who cannot be trusted, he is a serious flight risk given his history and connections," prosecutors wrote.

Seeger said there may have been no losses and the earlier estimate was simply Illarramendi responding to questions about potential losses.

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