Laura Pendergest-Holt, 38, the former chief investment officer of Houston-based Stanford Financial Group, pleaded guilty today to obstructing a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation into Stanford International Bank (SIB), the Antiguan offshore bank owned by convicted financier Robert Allen Stanford.
The plea was announced today by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of
the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of
the Southern District of Texas; FBI
Assistant Director Kevin Perkins of the Criminal Investigative Division;
Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Employee Benefits Security Administration
Phyllis C. Borzi; Chief Postal Inspector Guy J. Cottrell from the U.S. Postal
Inspection Service (USPIS); and Chief Richard Weber, Internal Revenue
Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).
Holt entered her guilty plea this morning before U.S. District Judge David
Hittner. A plea agreement was also filed with the court. If the agreement is
accepted by the court at Holt’s September 13, 2012 sentencing, it will result in
a sentence of 36 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised
release. Holt will also be subject to a fine of up to $250,000.
In January 2009, the SEC sought testimony and documents related to SIB’s
entire investment portfolio. During her guilty plea, Holt admitted that despite
knowing that she was incapable of testifying about the vast majority of that
portfolio, Holt agreed to testify before the SEC. Holt acknowledged that her
eventual appearance and sworn testimony before the SEC was a stall tactic
designed to frustrate the SEC’s efforts to obtain important information about
SIB’s investment portfolio, and Holt admitted that she took this action
intentionally and corruptly, knowing that her testimony would impede the SEC’s
investigation and help SIB continue operating.
In addition to Stanford and Holt, a grand jury in the Southern District of
Texas previously indicted additional co-conspirators: Stanford Financial Group
Chief Financial Officer James Davis, Stanford Financial Group former Chief
Accounting Officer Gilberto Lopez, former controller Mark Kuhrt, and former head
of the Antiguan Financial Services Regulatory Commission Leroy King. Stanford was sentenced
last week to 110 years in prison. Davis previously pleaded guilty and faces up
to 30 years in prison. The cases against the remaining defendants are still
pending. They are presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due
process of law.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Houston Field Office; USPIS; IRS-CI;
and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration. The
case against Holt is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Varnado
of the Southern District of Texas, Deputy Chief Jeffrey Goldberg of the Criminal
Division’s Fraud Section, and Fraud Section Trial Attorney Andrew Warren. Former
AUSA Gregg Costa and Fraud Section Deputy Chief William Stellmach were also
involved in this case.
The Justice Department thanks the SEC for their assistance and cooperation in
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